1. Clonally reproducing species are often assumed to lack sufficient genetic variability to evolve specific local adaptations to cope with environmental perturbation and competition from sexual species. Yet, many asexuals are extremely successful judged by abundance and wide range, suggesting high competitive abilities in resource exploitation.
2. In this study, food use and its effects on larval growth in a water frog system consisting of the two parental sexual species, Rana lessonae (Camerano 1882) and Rana ridibunda (Pallas 1771), and three different coexisting hemiclones of their hybrid, Rana esculenta (Linnaeus 1758) were investigated.
3.R. esculenta tadpoles spent 18·6% more time feeding than did tadpoles of either parental species, but feeding time was not affected by interspecific mixture.
4.R. esculenta tadpoles consumed 50·8% more food over the whole test period than did tadpoles of the two parental species.
5.R. esculenta tadpoles exhibited higher growth rates than did tadpoles of either parental species.
6.R. lessonae tadpoles had the highest and R. ridibunda tadpoles the lowest growth efficiencies with the R. esculenta tadpoles ranging between the two parentals.
7. The results obtained indicate that hemiclonal hybridogenetic R. esculenta tadpoles display significant phenotypic variation among coexisting hemiclones as well as out-perform tadpoles of the parental sexual species R. lessonae and R. ridibunda. The primary mechanism for success of the hybrid tadpoles is probably behavioural, through increased feeding time and food consumption, and not physiological via growth efficiency.