Insular shifts in body size of rice frogs in the Zhoushan Archipelago, China

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Journal Article
Journal of Animal Ecology, 2006, 75 (5), pp. 1071 - 1080
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1. Differences in body size between mainland and island populations have been reported for reptiles, birds and mammals. Despite widespread recognition of insular shifts in body size in these taxa, there have been no reports of such body size shifts in amphibians. 2. We provide the first evidence of an insular shift in body size for an amphibian species, the rice frog Rana limnocharis. We found significant increases in body size of rice frogs on most sampled islands in the Zhoushan archipelago when compared with neighbouring mainland China. 3. Large body size in rice frogs on islands was significantly related to increased population density, in both breeding and non-breeding seasons. Increases in rice frog density were significantly related to higher resource availability on islands. Increased resource availability on islands has led to higher carrying capacities, which has subsequently facilitated higher densities and individual growth rates, resulting in larger body size in rice frogs. We also suggest that large body size has evolved on islands, as larger individuals are competitively superior under conditions of harsh intraspecific competition at high densities. 4. Increases in body size in rice frogs were not related to several factors that have been implicated previously in insular shifts in body size in other taxa. We found no significant relationships between body size of rice frogs and prey size, number of larger or smaller frog species, island area or distance of islands from the mainland. 5. Our findings contribute to the formation of a broad, repeatable ecological generality for insular shifts in body size across a range of terrestrial vertebrate taxa, and provide support for recent theoretical work concerning the importance of resource availability for insular shifts in body size. © 2006 The Authors.
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