Neoteny and progenesis as two heterochronic processes involved in paedomorphosis in Triturus alpestris (Amphibia: Caudata)

Mathieu Denoël, Pierre Joly


Current theories on the evolution of paedomorphosis suppose that several ontogenetic pathways have appeared according to different selective pressures. The aim of this study was to find out whether two distinct processes can lead to paedomorphosis in the Alpine newt, Triturus alpestris. In this respect, we compared age structures of paedomorphic and metamorphic individuals in two newt populations where the two forms lived syntopically. Whereas paedomorphosis resulted in a slower rate of somatic development in one population, it resulted in an acceleration of sexual maturation in the other population. These processes correspond to neoteny and progenesis, respectively. These results suggest that phenotypic plasticity can result from contrasted ontogenetic pathways between two populations of the same species. They give support to models that consider gonadic development as the target of selection under different environmental pressures.