Flexible architecture of inducible morphological plasticity


Osamu Kishida, Graduate School of Fisheries Sciences, Hokkaido University, Hakodate 041-8611, Hokkaido, Japan. Tel./fax: +81 38 40 8827. E-mail: kishida@fish.hokudai.ac.jp


  • 1Predator-induced morphological defences are produced in response to an emergent predator regime. In natural systems, prey organisms usually experience temporal shifting of the composition of the predator assemblage and of the intensity of predation risk from each predator species. Although, a repetitive morphological change in response to a sequential shift of the predator regime such as alteration of the predator species or diminution of the predation risk may be adaptive, such flexible inducible morphological defences are not ubiquitous.
  • 2We experimentally addressed whether a flexible inducible morphological defence is accomplished in response to serial changes in the predation regime, using a model prey species which adopt different defensive morphological phenotypes in response to different predator species. Rana pirica (Matsui) tadpoles increased body depth and tail depth against the predatory larval salamander Hynobius retardatus (Dunn); on the other hand, they only increased tail depth against the predatory larval dragonfly Aeshna nigroflava (Martin).
  • 3Rana pirica tadpoles with the predator-specific phenotypes were subjected to removal or exchange of the predator species. After removal of the predator species, tadpoles with each predator-specific phenotype changed their phenotype to the nondefensive basic one, suggesting that both predator-specific phenotypes are costly to maintain. After an exchange of the predator species, tadpoles with each predator-specific phenotype reciprocally, flexibly shifted their phenotype to the now more suitable predator-specific one only by modifying their body part. The partial modification can effectively reduce time and energy expenditures involved in repetitive morphological changes, and therefore suggest that the costs of the flexible morphological changes are reduced.