Predator-induced defenses in tadpoles confound body stoichiometry predictions of the general stress paradigm

Authors

  • David M. Costello,

    1. Department of Biological Sciences, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, Indiana 46556 USA
    Search for more papers by this author
    • Present address: School of Natural Resources and Environment, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109 USA. E-mail: dcostel@umich.edu

  • Matt J. Michel

    1. Department of Biological Sciences, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, Indiana 46556 USA
    Search for more papers by this author
    • Present address: Department of Biology, Saint Louis University, St. Louis, Missouri 63103 USA.


  • Corresponding Editor: M. C. Urban.

Abstract

Predation is known to have both direct and indirect effects on nutrient cycling in terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, and the general stress paradigm (GSP) has been promoted as a theory for describing predator-mediated indirect effects on nutrient cycling. The GSP predicts that prey exposed to predators will produce glucocorticosteroids, which have a host of physiological effects including gluconeogenesis, increased respiration, excretion of N and P, and increases in body C:N. We tested the nutrient predictions of the GSP using anuran larvae, which exhibit morphological defenses in addition to behavioral defenses for which the GSP was conceived. Genetically similar Hyla versicolor tadpoles were placed in mesocosms either in the presence or absence of a fed predator (Dytiscus verticalis), and after two weeks, tadpoles exposed to predators exhibited strong induced defenses with large, tubular bodies, larger tails, and reduced activity. Tadpole body %C and N:P increased with no change in C:N, which is contrary to expectations from the GSP. Statistical models suggested that changes in body morphology (e.g., tail muscle width) rather than behavioral defenses (i.e., reduced activity) were most likely responsible for predator-mediated differences in body stoichiometry. This study suggests that strong morphological defenses may overwhelm or counteract the nutrient predictions of the GSP.

Ancillary