Ecological causes of fluctuating natural selection on habitat choice in an amphibian

Josh Van Buskirk, David C. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We estimated natural selection targeting three traits related to habitat choice in a frog (Pseudacris maculata) breeding in pools on the rocky shores of Isle Royale, Michigan, over 16 years. Our aim was to identify the form and ecological causes of annual variation in directional and correlational selection as expressed in the survival and growth of tadpoles. We found directional selection favoring early breeding, but pool choice was under weak stabilizing selection. However, the form of stabilizing selection and the position of the optimum trait value shifted among years with the severity of disturbance and the intensity of biotic interactions. In years when wave wash and pool desiccation were severe, selection shifted to favor tadpoles in habitats where these risks were less pronounced. If predatory dragonfly larvae were abundant, selection favored tadpoles in small pools where dragonflies did not occur. When intraspecific competition was strong, selection favored early broods within a broader range of pool types. The agents of selection in this study—biotic interactions and disturbance—are common to many ecological systems and frequently exhibit temporal variation; this suggests that fluctuating selection may be widespread in natural populations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1862-1877
Number of pages16
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Aeshna
  • amphibian
  • habitat selection
  • spawning
  • tadpole
  • variable selection


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