Stiftung Tierärztliche Hochschule Hannover (TiHo)TiHo eLib

Evidence for coloration plasticity in the yellow‐bellied toad, Bombina variegata

Phenotypic adaptation in terms of background color matching to the local habitat is an important mechanism for survival in prey species. Thus, intraspecific variation in cryptic coloration is expected among localities with dissimilar habitat features (e.g., soil, vegetation). Yellow-bellied toads (Bombina variegata) display a dark dorsal coloration that varies between populations, assumed to convey crypsis. In this study, we explored I) geographic variation in dorsal coloration and II) coloration plasticity in B. variegata from three localities differing in substrate coloration. Using avian visual modeling, we found that the brightness contrasts of the cryptic dorsa were significantly lower on the local substrates than substrates of other localities. In experiments, individuals from one population were able to quickly change the dorsal coloration to match a lighter substrate. We conclude that the environment mediates an adaptation in cryptic dorsal coloration. We suggest further studies to test the mechanisms by which the color change occurs and explore the adaptive potential of coloration plasticity on substrates of varying brightness in B. variegata and other species.

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