Neuroendocrine correlates of juvenile amphibian behaviors across a latitudinal cline
We assessed the macrogeographic and neuroendocrine correlates of behavioral variation exhibited by juveniles, an important life stage for dispersal, across the expansive range of the wood frog. By rearing animals from eggs in a common garden then using a novel environment test, we uniquely demonstrated differential expression of juvenile behaviors among 16 populations spanning 8° latitude. On the individual level, cluster analysis indicated three major behavior profiles and principal component analysis resolved four unique axes of behavior, including escape, foraging, food intake, feeding efficiency. We found that increased escape behavior was associated with blunted adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH)-induced circulating corticosterone (CORT), however, foraging and food intake behaviors were not associated with either resting or ACTH-induced CORT. At the population level, the expression of foraging behaviors increased with latitude while food intake behaviors declined with latitude, which raised several hypotheses of eco-evolutionary processes likely driving this variation. Given that these behaviors covary along the same ecological gradient as locally adapted developmental traits, genomic studies in this species could provide deep insights into how HPA/I activity is associated with the eco-evolutionary processes that structure intraspecific variation in morphology and behavior.