Learning, memorizing and apparent forgetting of chemical cues from new predators by Iberian green frog tadpoles
Many antipredator adaptations are induced by the prey’s ability to recognize chemical cues from predators. However, predator recognition often requires learning by prey individuals. Iberian green frog tadpoles (Pelophylax perezi) have the ability to learn new potential predators. Here, we tested the memory capabilities of Iberian green frog tadpoles. We conditioned tadpoles with chemicals cues from a non-predatory fish in conjunction with conspecific alarm cues, and examined whether tadpoles retained their conditioned response (reduction of activity level). We found that conditioned tadpoles reduced their activity levels in subsequent exposures to the non-predatory fish cues alone. Tadpoles were able to remember this association and reduced movement rate at least for 9 days after. The ability to learn and memorize potential predators may be especially important for the survivorship of prey species that are likely to find a high variety of predators. However, after those 9 days, there was a lack of response to the non-predatory fish cues alone in the absence of reinforcement. This could be explained if tadpoles behave according to the threat-sensitive predator avoidance hypothesis, and the perceived risk to the learning cue diminished over time, or it could be due to an apparent forgetting process to avoid non-adaptative responses to chemical cues of non-dangerous species that were randomly paired with alarm cues. Thus, this study demonstrates that green frog tadpoles in the absence of reinforcement remember the chemical cues of a learned predator only for a limited time that may be adaptative in a threat-sensitive context.