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The Ability of Three Species of Tadpoles to Differentiate among Potential Fish Predators


Geoffrey R. Smith, Department of Biology, Denison University, Granville, OH 43023, USA.


The ability of prey to respond to novel predator cues may depend on the generality or specificity of the response to predator cues. We used laboratory behavioral experiments to examine the ability of tadpoles of three species of anurans (American toad, Bufo americanus; bullfrog, Rana catesbeiana; and green frog, R. clamitans) to respond to the presence of two native potential predators (bluegill, Lepomis macrochirus; and largemouth bass, Micropterus salmoides) and one non-native potential predator (goldfish, Carassius auratus). We also examined the effect of tadpole size on the behavioral responses of American toads and green frogs to predator cues. All three species of tadpoles responded to the presence of predator cues, although the specific responses varied among species. American toads and green frogs reduced activity in the presence of at least some fish cues, but bullfrog tadpoles did not change their activity. Bullfrogs decreased use of vegetation in the presence of some predator cues, whereas American toads and green frogs did not. American toads only responded to the presence of bluegill cues but not the other fish predator cues, whereas bullfrogs and green frogs responded more generally to the fish predators. In both American toads and green frogs, tadpole size affected behavior. For American toads, activity increased, as did the use of the vegetated side of the aquarium, in larger tadpoles. Not only did size affect American toad behavior, but it also influenced the responses of the tadpoles to predator cues. For green frogs, activity decreased in larger tadpoles. Our results suggest that behavioral responses of tadpoles to predator cues can be influenced by both the identity of the predator and the prey, as well as the size of the potential prey.