Social aggregations are widespread among animal groups. They are relatively common in amphibian larvae, likely conferring protection against predators, advantages for microhabitat selection, foraging efficiency, and thermoregulatory efficiency. Group formation involves selection of individuals to group with by the other members, and several tadpoles are reported to recognise and prefer to aggregate with siblings or familiar individuals. In Australia, tadpoles of the endangered green and golden bell frog, Litoria aurea, are attracted to conspecifics and form schools. We conducted two choice experiments for captive breed tadpoles of this species to test their grouping preferences. Tadpoles preferred to aggregate with conspecifics to heterospecifics of a sympatric species; however, when conspecifics were absent they preferred to aggregate with the heterospecifcs than to remain alone. Tadpoles also preferred unfamiliar kin to unfamiliar non-kin conspecifics, but had no preferences between unfamiliar and familiar siblings. Once widespread in southeast Australia, the green and golden bell frog has suffered considerable declines and local extinctions in recent decades. Susceptibility to chytridiomycosis is likely the major threat for most remaining fragmented populations and the major challenge for reintroduction programs. The strong gregarious behaviour of this species may affect disease dynamics, especially chytridiomicosis that continues to threaten remaining wild populations.
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|Published - Apr 2016