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Keywords:

  • antipredator behaviour;
  • induced defence;
  • morphology;
  • phenotypic plasticity;
  • predation risk;
  • tadpoles

Models of defence against multiple enemies predict that specialized responses to each enemy should evolve only under restrictive conditions. Nevertheless, tadpoles of Rana temporaria can differentiate among several predator species. Small tadpoles used a refuge when Notonecta backswimmers were in the pond, but showed a weaker hiding response to adult Triturus alpestris newts and no response to aeshnid dragonfly larvae (Aeshna and Anax). All predators caused a decline in feeding and swimming activity. Large tadpoles reserved the strongest behavioural response for dragonflies, while Triturus caused no response. The shift during development suggests that tadpoles distinguished among predators, rather than exhibiting a graded dosage response to a single cue associated with predation. Information on habitat distributions of predators suggests that they are regularly encountered, which would facilitate evolution of adaptive behavioural responses. Morphological responses to all predators were similar, perhaps because similar morphologies defend against all four predators. The evolutionary maintenance of specialized responses to multiple predators may be possible because adaptive responses do not conflict and the predators themselves do not interact strongly.