Predator-specific changes in the morphology and swimming performance of larval Rana lessonae


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  • 1We investigated the morphological responses of larval Rana lessonae to the presence of two predators with substantially different prey-detection and capture techniques; larval dragonflies (Aeshna cyanea) and the Pumpkinseed Sunfish (Lepomis gibossus).
  • 2We also examined the functional implications of any predator-induced morphological variation on their swimming ability by assessing performance during the initial stages of a startle response.
  • 3We found the morphological responses of larval R. lessonae were dependent on the specific predator present. Tadpoles raised in the presence of dragonfly larvae preying upon conspecific tadpoles developed total tail heights 5·4% deeper and tail muscles 4·7% shallower than tadpoles raised in a non-predator environment, while tadpoles raised with sunfish possessed tails 2% shallower and tail muscles 2·5% higher than non-predator-exposed tadpoles.
  • 4Predator-induced morphological variation also significantly influenced swimming performance. Tadpoles raised with sunfish possessed swimming speeds 9·5 and 14·6% higher than non- and dragonfly predator groups, respectively.
  • 5Thus, the expression of these alternative predator-morphs leads to a functional trade-off in performance between the different environments.