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Predator-mediated phenotypic plasticity in tadpoles of the striped marsh frog, Limnodynastes peronii



Abstract  We tested the phenotypic responses of larval striped marsh frogs (Limnodynastes peronii) to the odonate nymph predator, Aeshna brevistyla. When reared in the presence of dragonfly nymphs feeding upon conspecifics of L. peronii larvae the tadpoles showed a strong change in morphology. Morphological changes included an increase in total tail height, but also an unexpected marked change in head-body shape. In addition, we examined how tadpole development, as well as mass and length at metamorphosis, was affected by exposure to dragonfly nymphs. Larval development of L. peronii was strongly influenced by exposure to the predatory behaviour of dragonfly nymphs. Predator-induced tadpoles had significantly slower developmental rates than control larvae. Although metamorphs of non-exposed L. peronii were approximately 33% lighter than predator-exposed metamorphs and possessed lower jump distances, after adjusting for mass there was no difference in jump distance. The newly described morphological response may assist in more accurately relating morphological plasticity to fitness.