Short-term Visitor

Longitudinal Study of Amphibian Populations in Urban and Natural Environment

PI(s): Vladimir Vershinin (Institute of Plant and Animal Ecology)
Start Date: 1-Oct-2013
End Date: 17-Dec-2013
Keywords: ecology, development, adaptation, anthropogenic effects, natural populations

Urbanization is a major anthropogenic factor affecting today’s environment, making urban ecosystems the most dynamically evolving parts of modern biota. Although the influence of urbanization on biological species has been studied, a significant gap of knowledge exists regarding the effect of urbanization on the evolution of animal species. To address this question, my laboratory conducts a longitudinal study on amphibian communities in the Ural Mountains region in Russia. The Urals is natural barrier between Europe and Asia characterized by a considerable heterogeneity of landscapes, well-developed urban ecosystems, and diverse areas of environmental pollution. These factors strongly affect amphibian populations because the development of these animals is very sensitive to environmental cues. Starting 1977, we study five amphibian species at 20 geographical locations, including urban territories. We use standardized methods of data collection, which allows for comparisons between different years and locations. We obtain biological specimens and a variety of quantitative data, such as phenology, spatial distribution of species, fecundity, sex ratios, and the number of spawns. In individual frogs, we also quantify malformations, types of blood cells, and skin permeability. Our records of local environment include water chemistry, temperature profile, and descriptions of plant communities. The length and comprehensive character of this study provides unique opportunity to assess the ongoing microevolutionary processes within amphibian populations. During my short-term visit, I propose to prepare a manuscript for a publication, in which we will summarize main results of our work and present our data in the form of publicly accessible database.