The knowledge about the relative contributions of additive genetic and maternal effects, as well as the proximate determinants of maternal effects variation, on population differentiation remains elusive. Likewise, although embryonic performance is often an important component of fitness, it has been relatively little explored in respect to population differentiation. By conducting reciprocal crosses between an acid and a neutral origin population of moor frogs (Rana arvalis), we investigated the relative importance of additive genetic versus maternal effects in local adaptation to acidity in embryonic traits. Furthermore, by performing removal experiments of gelatinous egg capsules (jelly), we evaluated the possibility that differences in the extraembryonic membranes might explain the interpopulation variation in embryonic acid tolerance found in this and earlier studies. Embryos were raised from fertilization to hatching at three different pH levels (pH 4.0, 4.25, and 7.5) in the laboratory, and acid stress tolerance was measured in terms of embryonic survival, growth and development (i.e., size and age at hatching). The results show that the higher acid tolerance of acid population embryos (in terms of survival) was maternally determined, indicating adaptive maternal effects. The jelly removal experiment revealed that adaptation to acidity in embryonic survival may arise through variation related to structure/composition of the egg capsules. There was no evidence for a genetic basis in acid tolerance in sublethal effects, but additive and nonadditive genetic effects were found in embryonic growth and development, independently of treatment. The results indicate a role for maternal effects in local adaptation to acidity in amphibians, and genetically based differences in early life-histories among the populations.
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Vol. 57 • No. 2