, Volume 33, Issue 2, pp 205-211

Predator-prey interactions between two amphibian species: effects of insecticide exposure

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Abstract

The presence of environmental contaminants may alter predator-prey interactions among aquatic species by altering activity levels of predators or prey, or by altering predator avoidance behavior. The outcome of a predatory encounter may be dependent upon whether both species are exposed to a contaminant simultaneously, or whether exposure occurs only in one of the species. In a laboratory experiment, I used the insecticide carbaryl to examine predation of southern leopard frog tadpoles (Rana sphenocephala) by adult red-spotted newts (Notophthalmus viridescens) under four conditions: both tadpoles and newts exposed, neither tadpoles nor newts exposed, and either newts or tadpoles only exposed. After one hour, exposed newts consumed half as many tadpoles as non-exposed newts. Carbaryl potentially affected newt activity enough to reduce time spent searching for prey, or may have altered the speed and coordination necessary to capture tadpoles. After six hours, non-exposed and exposed newts consumed similar numbers of tadpoles, most likely indicating recovery from exposure. After 24 h, predation rates were lowest when both newts and tadpoles were simultaneously either exposed or not exposed, and were greatest when newts and tadpoles were not exposed simultaneously. This study suggests that when tadpoles and newts are exposed to a sublethal level of a contaminant simultaneously, that predation rates do not differ from those observed under natural conditions, but exposure of either predator or prey at different times can disrupt predator-prey dynamics.

This revised version was published online in August 2006 with corrections to the Cover Date.