Does the spatial sorting of dispersal traits affect the phenotype of the non-dispersing stages of the invasive frog Xenopus laevis through coupling?
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In amphibians, spatial sorting progressively enhances the dispersal capacities of dispersing stages in expanding populations but may enhance or limit the performance of the earlier non-dispersing stages. Phenotypic traits of non-dispersing tadpoles and metamorphs can be coupled, through carryover effects and trade-offs, or decoupled to dispersal traits in adults. We used the globally invasive amphibian, Xenopus laevis, to examine whether spatial sorting of adult phenotypes affects the phenotype of larval stages to metamorphosis in the core and at the periphery of an invasive population in France. We combined common garden laboratory and outdoor experiments to test the effect of parental pond location (core or periphery) on morphology, development and survival to metamorphosis and found no differences between tadpoles. After metamorphosis, the only difference observed in either of the experiments was the larger body size of metamorphs from the periphery, and then only when reared in the laboratory. Differences in metamorph size may indicate that a shift of dispersal traits occur after metamorphosis in X. laevis. Thus, our findings illustrate that decoupled evolution through spatial sorting can lead to changes of X. laevis adult phenotypes that would enhance dispersal without affecting the phenotype of tadpoles before metamorphosis.