New paper in Experimental Biology


Naive poison frog tadpoles use bi-modal cues to avoid insect predators but not heterospecific predatory tadpoles

Szabo B, Mangione R, Rath M, Pašukonis A, Reber SA, Oh J, Ringler M & Ringler E. 2021
J Exp Biol 15 December 2021; 224 (24): jeb243647. doi: Link. Published online 16 December 2021


For animals to survive until reproduction, it is crucial that juveniles successfully detect potential predators and respond with appropriate behavior. The recognition of cues originating from predators can be innate or learned. Cues of various modalities might be used alone or in multi-modal combinations to detect and distinguish predators but studies investigating multi-modal integration in predator avoidance are scarce. Here, we used wild, naive tadpoles of the Neotropical poison frog Allobates femoralis ( Boulenger, 1884) to test their reaction to cues with two modalities from two different sympatrically occurring potential predators: heterospecific predatory Dendrobates tinctorius tadpoles and dragonfly larvae. We presented A. femoralis tadpoles with olfactory or visual cues, or a combination of the two, and compared their reaction to a water control in a between-individual design. In our trials, A. femoralis tadpoles reacted to multi-modal stimuli (a combination of visual and chemical information) originating from dragonfly larvae with avoidance but showed no reaction to uni-modal cues or cues from heterospecific tadpoles. In addition, visual cues from conspecifics increased swimming activity while cues from predators had no effect on tadpole activity. Our results show that A. femoralis tadpoles can innately recognize some predators and probably need both visual and chemical information to effectively avoid them. This is the first study looking at anti-predator behavior in poison frog tadpoles. We discuss how parental care might influence the expression of predator avoidance responses in tadpoles.