Ontogenetic changes in the ventral colouration of post metamorphic Elachistocleis haroi Pereyra, Akmentins, Laufer, Vaira, 2013 (Anura: Microhylidae)
Ontogenetic colour change (OCC) is defined as the progressive and non-reversible process of changes in colouration of organisms associated with their development. Among the many vertebrate groups, amphibians are particularly impressive for their strikingly wide variety of colours, colour patterns, and signals, whose evolutionary and ecological significance have been poorly studied. Elachistocleis comprises 18 species currently separated into two main groups based on their ventral colour pattern: one immaculate and the other with specks and/or colour patches. Elachistocleis haroi is a small-sized species within the immaculate venter group, distributed in the Yungas and Dry Chaco ecoregions from which little information is known. In a comprehensive sampling of post-metamorphic individuals of E. haroi at different stages of development we identified a significant in ventral colour pattern, which could denote a progressive filling of yellow colour according to an ontogenetic pattern. To test this hypothesis, we analysed 39 post-metamorphic individuals of E. haroi at different stages of development with imaging procedures. We found that yellow spots and their intensity are significantly related to snout-vent length, as major expansion of colour on the sides, gular region and male chest, as almost no development on the belly. We briefly discuss our findings in relation to sexual display and predation avoidance. To our knowledge, this is the first analysis of post-metamorphic OCC in ventral colouration in the genus Elachistocleis.