Divergent responses of exposed and naive Pacific tree frog tadpoles to invasive predatory crayfish
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- Pease, K.M. & Wayne, R.K. Oecologia (2014) 174: 241. doi:10.1007/s00442-013-2745-1
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Invasive predators can devastate native species and ecosystems. However, native species may be able to coexist with invasive predators through a variety of mechanisms, such as changes in morphology or behavior due to a plastic response or selection on fixed anti-predator traits. We examined whether exposed and naive populations of Pacific tree frog tadpoles (Pseudacris regilla) display divergent morphological and behavioral traits in response to the invasive predatory red swamp crayfish (Procambarus clarkii). Tadpoles were collected from three study streams with and three without crayfish, in the Santa Monica Mountains of Southern California. We analyzed tadpole morphology and tested anti-predator behavior and survival in the laboratory. Tadpoles from streams with crayfish had shallower, narrower tails than tadpoles from streams without crayfish. Tadpoles from streams with and without crayfish were less active after exposure to crayfish chemical cues. The divergent morphology of naive and exposed tadpoles is consistent with tadpoles exhibiting a plastic response to crayfish or undergoing selection from crayfish predation. In laboratory predation experiments, we found no difference in survival between tadpoles from streams with and without crayfish but tadpoles that survived predation had deeper tail muscles than those that were killed or injured. Our results suggest that deeper tails are advantageous in the presence of crayfish, yet tadpoles from crayfish streams had shallower tails than those from crayfish-free streams. Shallower tails may have an alternative unmeasured advantage or there may be a physiological constraint to developing deeper tails in the wild. These results highlight the ability of a native frog to respond to an invasive predatory crayfish, potentially allowing for coexistence.