Mol. Ecol. 28 (11) 2786-2801 [2019-06-00; online 2019-06-07]
Ectotherm development rates often show adaptive divergence along climatic gradients, but the genetic basis for this variation is rarely studied. Here, we investigated the genetic basis for phenotypic variation in larval development in the moor frog Rana arvalis from five regions along a latitudinal gradient from Germany to northern Sweden. We focused on the C/EBP-1 gene, a transcription factor associated with larval development time. Allele frequencies at C/EBP-1 varied strongly among geographical regions. Overall, the distribution of alleles along the gradient was in concordance with the dual post-glacial colonization routes into Scandinavia, with a large number of alleles exclusively present along the southern colonization route. Only three of 38 alleles were shared between the routes. Analysis of contemporary selection on C/EBP-1 showed divergent selection among the regions, probably reflecting adaptation to the local environmental conditions, although this was especially strong between southern and northern regions coinciding also with lineages from different colonization routes. Overall, the C/EBP-1 gene has historically been under purifying selection, but two specific amino acid positions showed significant signals of positive selection. These positions showed divergence between southern and northern regions, and we suggest that they are functionally involved in the climatic adaptation of larval development. Using phenotypic data from a common garden experiment, we found evidence for specific C/EBP-1 alleles being correlated with larval development time, suggesting a functional role in adaptation of larval development to large-scale climatic variation.
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