One of the major unanswered questions in the study of global amphibian declines is why only some species or populations suffer declines. A possible explanation is that species and populations vary in the genetic basis of their tolerance to environmental stress such as chemical contamination. The presence of genetic variation in tolerance to chemicals and in fitness traits of amphibians is essential for persistence of species populations through survival and successful reproduction in contaminated environments. We tested for the presence of genetic variation in the tolerance of amphibian larvae to the insecticide carbaryl using gray treefrog tadpoles (Hyla versicolor). We also assessed whether tolerance of tadpoles is negatively associated with larval performance traits directly related to adult fitness, thereby providing a test of the "cost of tolerance" hypothesis. Our results demonstrate significant variation in tolerance of tadpoles to the insecticide carbaryl within a single population of the gray treefrog, Hyla versicolor. Our half-sibship design indicates that variation among sires explains a significant amount of the variation in chemical tolerance thereby suggesting a heritability genetic basis. Our results also indicate the presence of a fitness tradeoff with tolerance to the chemical carbaryl being negatively correlated, or traded off, with survival of tadpoles reared in the field in the absence of the chemical. Knowledge of genetic tradeoffs with chemical tolerance under realistic environmental conditions will be important for predicting the rate of adaptation and potential for persistence of species. Finally, the partitioning of environmental and genetic variation in tolerance to chemicals is critical to identifying which species are most susceptible, the amount of genetic variance present, the potential for adaptation to contaminants, and the presence of fitness tradeoffs. Such information is necessary to clearly understand the persistence of populations, and ultimately, the processes leading to species declines.
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