Paedomorphosis is a major evolutionary process that bypasses metamorphosis and allows reproduction in larvae. In newts and salamanders, it can be facultative with paedomorphs retaining gills and metamorphs dispersing. The evolution of these developmental processes is thought to have been driven by the costs and benefits of inhabiting aquatic versus terrestrial habitats. In this context, we aimed at testing the hypothesis that climatic drivers affect phenotypic transition and the difference across sexes because sex-ratio is biased in natural populations. Through a replicated laboratory experiment, we showed that paedomorphic palmate newts (Lissotriton helveticus) metamorphosed at a higher frequency when water availability decreased and metamorphosed earlier when temperature increased in these conditions. All responses were sex-biased, and males were more prone to change phenotype than females. Our work shows how climatic variables can affect facultative paedomorphosis and support theoretical models predicting life on land instead of in water. Moreover, because males metamorphose and leave water more often and earlier than females, these results, for the first time, give an experimental explanation for the rarity of male paedomorphosis (the ‘male escape hypothesis’) and suggest the importance of sex in the evolution of paedomorphosis versus metamorphosis.
Electronic supplementary material is available online at https://dx.doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.c.3732250.
- Received January 27, 2017.
- Accepted March 20, 2017.
- © 2017 The Author(s)
Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.