Complex trade-offs in oviposition site selection in a cannibalistic frog

John Gould, John Clulow, Paul Rippon, J. Sean Doody, Simon Clulow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

For oviparous animals such as amphibians, the presence or absence of conspecifics can influence site selection, with each life history stage potentially influencing the decision-making process in a different manner. In the present study, we tested the effect of conspecific life history stage on oviposition site selection in the sandpaper frog, Lechriodus fletcheri. We quantified preferences for spawning in pools that were unused by conspecifics, as well as pools with conspecific spawn or tadpoles present, or both. The study included two ecological contexts: a system of naturally occurring breeding pools and a field experiment with 40 artificial pools that controlled for habitat variation. Mothers preferred to oviposit in pools that already contained conspecific spawn, despite the likelihood of intense resource competition upon offspring hatching. This could be due to the potential benefits obtained by providing offspring access to a significant nutrient supply upon hatching via cannibalism of conspecific tadpoles and might be an important adaptation for completing tadpole development in highly ephemeral and resource-limited pools prior to desiccation. In contrast, mothers avoided ovipositing in pools with conspecific tadpoles, a probable adaptation to avoid their own offspring from becoming victims of cannibalism themselves prior to hatching. Such nuances in the effect of conspecific presence on offspring survival highlight the often complex decision-making process that amphibians need to make when selecting oviposition sites, as well as the influence cannibalism can have on the evolution of reproductive behaviour.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)75-86
Number of pages12
JournalAnimal Behaviour
Volume175
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 2021
Externally publishedYes

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