Vol. 17 No. 2 (2022)

Sunny-side up: ontogenetic variation in egg mass temperatures of the wood frog Rana sylvatica

Ryan Calsbeek
Department of Biological Sciences, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire 03755
Ava Calsbeek
Department of Biological Sciences, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire 03755
Isabel Calsbeek
Department of Biological Sciences, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire 03755

Published 2022-08-01


  • Anurans,
  • egg-mass aggregations,
  • developmental temperatures

How to Cite

Calsbeek, R., Calsbeek, A., & Calsbeek, I. (2022). Sunny-side up: ontogenetic variation in egg mass temperatures of the wood frog Rana sylvatica. Acta Herpetologica, 17(2), 159–164. https://doi.org/10.36253/a_h-12660


The efficacy of most biological processes is temperature dependent and, within physiological limits, on average, warmer is better. This axiom of biology has led to a wide range of adaptations for dealing with temperatures that are outside of an organism’s preferred temperature. Many pond-breeding amphibians lay their eggs during early spring, when water temperatures are near freezing. Communal nest-site selection has been proposed as a mechanism to increase developmental temperatures, and temperatures near the center of egg-mass aggregations are elevated relative to egg-masses on the aggregation’s periphery. It is unclear whether this spatial variation in temperature is due to concentration of metabolic heat, absorption of solar radiation, or both. Here, we explore finer scale spatial variation within egg masses of the wood frog Rana sylvatica, one of the earliest amphibians to breed during the North American spring. We compared peripheral and core temperatures of egg masses that were exposed either to 1) ambient sunlight from above, or 2) sunlight reflected by a mirror from below. We found that differences between core and peripheral temperatures were higher in the control than in the mirror treatment, but core and peripheral temperatures were statistically indistinguishable in both cases. Moreover, the difference in peripheral and internal temperatures increased significantly over the course of development. However, these trends were only significant in ambient sunlight and actually decreased in the mirror group. Our results suggest that the benefits of communal nesting are also experienced by individual egg masses, albeit to a lesser extent. In addition, the lack of effect in shaded egg masses suggests that the thermal advantage is tied to sun exposure and not due to concentration of metabolic heat.


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