, Volume 65, Issue 7, pp 1367-1375

Foraging tactics of an ambush predator: the effects of substrate attributes on prey availability and predator feeding success

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Abstract

The foraging sites selected by an ambush forager can strongly affect its feeding opportunities. Foraging cane toads (Rhinella marina) typically select open areas, often under artificial lights that attract insects. We conducted experimental trials in the field, using rubber mats placed under lights, to explore the influence of substrate color and rugosity on prey availability (numbers, sizes, and types of insects) and toad foraging success. A mat's color (black vs. white) and rugosity (smooth vs. rough) did not influence the numbers, sizes, or kinds of insects that were attracted to it, but toads actively preferred to feed on rugose white mats (50% of prey-capture events, vs. a null of 25%). White backgrounds provided better visual contrast of the (mostly dark) insects, and manipulations of prey color in the laboratory showed that contrast was critical in toad foraging success. Insects landing on rugose backgrounds were slower to leave, again increasing capture opportunities for toads. Thus, cane toads actively select backgrounds that maximize prey-capture opportunities, a bias driven by the ways that substrate attributes influence ease of prey detection and capture rather than by absolute prey densities.

Communicated by P. Bednekoff