• biparental care;
  • co-evolution;
  • competition;
  • Dendrobates imitator;
  • Dendrobates variabilis;
  • habitat preference;
  • male parental care;
  • mating strategies;
  • pool choice;
  • predation


Changes in the nature of the ecological resources exploited by a species can lead to the evolution of novel suites of behaviours. We identified a case in which the transition from large pool use to the use of very small breeding pools in neotropical poison frogs (family Dendrobatidae) is associated with the evolution of a suite of behaviours, including biparental care (from uniparental care) and social monogamy (from promiscuity). We manipulated breeding pool size in order to demonstrate experimentally that breeding habitat selection strategy has evolved in concert with changes in parental care and mating system. We also manipulated intra- and interspecific larval interactions to demonstrate that larval adaptation to the use of very small pools for breeding affected the evolution of larval competition and cannibalism. Our results illustrate the intimate connection between breeding pool ecology, parental care and mating strategies in Peruvian poison frogs.