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October 21, 2019

Tiny toad offers big potential for research on plasticity

Spadefoot toads fooled biologists for years, and now the species offers new insights on adaptive evolution

Spadefoot toads are master "shape-shifters," able to make drastic changes to their form and behavior in response to their environment. They're excellent candidates for research on plasticity in nature, or the ability of an organism to adapt to environmental changes or differences in habitats. With support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), evolutionary biologists David and Karin Pfennig and their teams at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill study spadefoots to better understand the role plasticity plays in adaptive evolution.

The research in this episode was supported by NSF grants #1643239, "EAGER: Does Adaptation Facilitate or Constrain Further Adaptation? Evaluating the Origins of Character Displacement;" #1753865 "Collaborative proposal: Evaluating phenotypic plasticity's role in adaptive evolution;" and #1555520, "Behavioral Dysfunction and the Evolution of Reproductive Isolation between Species."

Miles O'Brien, Science Nation Correspondent
Kate Tobin, Science Nation Producer

Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations presented in this material are only those of the presenter grantee/researcher, author, or agency employee; and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.