Unpalatability as an antipredator defense in anuran larvae Public Deposited

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  • The tadpoles of several anuran species with groupforming larvae are relatively unpalatable to many of their potential predators. To more fully understand the role of palatability and its relationship to group formation as an antipredator defense in anuran amphibian larvae, I investigated the palatabilities of the larvae of three species of anurans, the Western toad (Bufo boreas), Cascades frog (Rana cascadae) and Pacific treefrog (Hula regilla) to several syntopic insect and salamander predators. Both B. boreas and R. cascadae tadpoles form social aggregations in nature. Salamanders ate proportionately fewer B. boreas than R. cascadae and H. regilla tadpoles of similar size and same developmental stage. Differential predation on B. boreas, R. cascadae and H. regilla tadpoles was probably due to distasteful qualities of B. boreas larvae as opposed to differences in prey size or escape ability. After being captured by salamanders, B. boreas tadpoles were usually released unharmed. Both newly-hatched and mid-developmental B. boreas tadpoles were unpalatable to salamanders whereas R. cascadae and H. regilla tadpoles were palatable at all developmental stages tested. The relative palatability of B. boreas, R. cascadae and H. regilla larvae to insect predators was similar regardless of whether tadpoles were newly-hatched, in mid-larval development or at metamorphic climax. Kin selection may have played a role in the evolution of Bufo unpalatability and group formation in the ancestral population, however, it may not be important for maintaining these traits in extant B. boreas populations. Because group-forming R. cascadae tadpoles are palatable to the predators tested, they may utilize other antipredator defenses to avoid being eaten.
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