The dynamics of predation risk assessment: responses of anuran larvae to chemical cues of predators


*Correspondence author. E-mail:


  • 1While the antipredator behaviour of prey has been well studied, little is known about the rules governing the predation risk assessment of prey. In this study, I measured the activity levels of predator-naive green frog (Rana clamitans) tadpoles during and after exposures to the chemical cue of predatory larval dragonflies (Anax spp.). I then used the lengths of the time lags from the end of the cue exposures until the tadpoles returned to a control level of activity as an index of the perceived risk of the tadpoles.
  • 2While tadpoles always responded upon exposure to the Anax chemical cue by strongly reducing their activity level, their perceived risk increased asymptotically over time during the initial period of the cue exposure. Tadpoles of all size classes perceived increasing risk in proportion to chemical cue concentration, but the length of time that tadpoles responded during cue exposure and the length of their post-exposure time lags decreased with increasing body mass.
  • 3The results suggest that the perceived risk of green frog tadpoles varies over time and does not correspond directly to their behavioural response (i.e. activity level). However, their perceived risk does appear to vary in accordance with the predation risk associated with the Anax chemical cue and the reliability of the information from the cue, and therefore may be predictable.