Glassfrog embryos hatch early after parental desertion

Jesse R. J. Delia, Aurelio Ramírez-Bautista, Kyle Summers


Both parental care and hatching plasticity can improve embryo survival. Research has found that parents can alter hatching time owing to a direct effect of care on embryogenesis or via forms of care that cue the hatching process. Because parental care alters conditions critical for offspring development, hatching plasticity could allow embryos to exploit variation in parental behaviour. However, this interaction of parental care and hatching plasticity remains largely unexplored. We tested the hypothesis that embryos hatch early to cope with paternal abandonment in the glassfrog Hyalinobatrachium fleischmanni (Centrolenidae). We conducted male-removal experiments in a wild population, and examined embryos' response to conditions with and without fathers. Embryos hatched early when abandoned, but extended development in the egg stage when fathers continued care. Paternal care had no effect on developmental rate. Rather, hatching plasticity was due to embryos actively hatching at different developmental stages, probably in response to deteriorating conditions without fathers. Our experimental results are supported by a significant correlation between the natural timing of abandonment and hatching in an unmanipulated population. This study demonstrates that embryos can respond to conditions resulting from parental abandonment, and provides insights into how variation in care can affect selection on egg-stage adaptations.

  • Received December 11, 2013.
  • Accepted March 26, 2014.
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