Body size but not warning signal luminance influences predation risk in recently metamorphosed poison frogs.
Ecology and Evolution
Wiley Open Access
(c) 2015 The Authors. Ecology and Evolution published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
During early development, many aposematic species have bright and conspicuous warning appearance, but have yet to acquire chemical defenses, a phenotypic state which presumably makes them vulnerable to predation. Body size and signal luminance in particular are known to be sensitive to variation in early nutrition. However, the relative importance of these traits as determinants of predation risk in juveniles is not known. To address this question, we utilized computer-assisted design (CAD) and information on putative predator visual sensitivities to produce artificial models of postmetamorphic froglets that varied in terms of body size and signal luminance. We then deployed the artificial models in the field and measured rates of attack by birds and unknown predators. Our results indicate that body size was a significant predictor of artificial prey survival. Rates of attack by bird predators were significantly higher on smaller models. However, predation by birds did not differ between artificial models of varying signal luminance. This suggests that at the completion of metamorphosis, smaller froglets may be at a selective disadvantage, potentially because predators can discern they have relatively low levels of chemical defense compared to larger froglets. There is likely to be a premium on efficient foraging, giving rise to rapid growth and the acquisition of toxins from dietary sources in juvenile poison frogs.
This study was supported by a PhD scholarship (IFARHU-SENACYT program) and a research grant No. APY-NI-010-006B/ SENACYT both awarded to EEF by the Government of Panama, and by a Royal Society University Research Fellowship to JDB. MS was supported by a Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council David Phillips Research Fellowship (BB/G022887/1). HMR was supported by a Junior Research Fellowship from Churchill College, Cambridge. Special thanks to Rachel Page at STRI for supporting EEF with the grant application, Sistema Nacional de Investigacion de Panama (SNI), and the People of Santa Fe for their collaboration during the study
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Vol. 5, Iss. 20, pp. 4603 - 4616
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