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Indirect effects of introduced trout on Cascades frogs (Rana cascadae) via shared aquatic prey

Authors


Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Campus Box 334, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO 80309-0334, U.S.A. E-mail: maxwell.b.joseph@colorado.edu

Summary

1. The introduction of trout to montane lakes has negatively affected amphibian populations across the western United States. In northern California’s Klamath–Siskiyou Mountains, introduced trout have diminished the distribution and abundance of a native ranid frog, Rana (=Lithobates) cascadae. This is primarily thought to be the result of predation on frog larvae. However, if trout feed on larval aquatic insects that are available to R. cascadae only after emergence, then resource competition may also affect this declining native amphibian.

2. Stomach contents of R. cascadae were compared between lakes that contained trout and those from which introduced trout were removed. Total prey mass in stomach contents relative to frog body mass was not significantly different between lakes with fish and fish-removal lakes, but in the former R. cascadae consumed a smaller proportion of adult aquatic insects. The stomach contents of fish included larvae of aquatic insects that are, as adults, eaten by R. cascadae.

3. Rana cascadae consumed fewer caddisflies (Trichoptera) and more grasshoppers (Orthoptera) at lakes with higher densities of fish. At lakes with greater aquatic habitat complexity, R. cascadae consumed more water striders (Hemiptera: Gerridae) and terrestrial spiders (Araneae).

4. We suggest that reductions in the availability of emerging aquatic insects cause R. cascadae to consume more terrestrial prey where trout are present. Thus, introduced trout may influence native amphibians directly through predation and, indirectly, through pre-emptive resource competition.

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