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Functional equivalence of non-lethal effects: generalized fish avoidance determines distribution of gray treefrog, Hyla chrysoscelis, larvae


  • Christopher A. Binckley,

  • William J. Resetarits Jr.

C. A. Binckley and W. J. Resetarits Jr., Dept of Biological Sciences, Old Dominion Univ., Norfolk, Virginia 23529, USA


How patterns of prey abundance are generated determines how predation influences population and community level dynamics. We investigated how a natural population of ovipositing treefrogs, Hyla chrysoscelis, partitioned their eggs amongst experimental ponds differing in the non-lethal presence of five fish predators, each representing a distinct family. Four fish predators were functionally equivalent in terms of the behavioral response they induced in H. chrysoscelis females and hence the distribution of larval H. chrysoscelis. Mean number of H. chrysoscelis eggs deposited was significantly decreased by the mere presence of these predators relative to controls, with three species eliciting a complete avoidance (e.g. no eggs deposited). One fish predator, Aphredoderus sayanus, was statistically indistinguishable from the control treatment. These data mimic patterns of species distribution observed in nature in response to the presence of fish, but suggest an alternative mechanism for generating patterns of prey abundance amongst habitats differing in their predator composition. Furthermore, our results expand the importance of predator induced non-lethal effects as a process that could dramatically affect population and community level dynamics.