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Oecologia

, Volume 141, Issue 1, pp 139–147 | Cite as

Induced defences in an endangered amphibian in response to an introduced snake predator

  • Robin D. Moore
  • Richard A. Griffiths
  • Cliona M. O’Brien
  • Adam Murphy
  • David Jay
Conservation Ecology

Abstract

Introduced species have contributed significantly to the extinction of endemic species on islands. They also create new selection pressures on their prey that may result in modified life history strategies. Introduced viperine snakes (Natrix maura) have been implicated in the decline of the endemic midwife toad of Mallorca (Alytes muletensis). A comparison of A. muletensis tadpoles in natural pools with and without snakes showed that those populations subject to snake predation possessed longer tails with narrower tail fins but deeper tail muscles. Field and laboratory experiments showed that these changes in tail morphology could be induced by chemical and tactile cues from snakes. Populations of tadpoles that were subject to snake predation also displayed clear bimodal size-frequency distributions, with intermediate-sized tadpoles missing from the pools completely. Tadpoles in pools frequented by snakes developed faster in relation to their body size than those in pools without snakes. Variation in morphology between toad populations may therefore be caused by a combination of size-selective predation and tadpole plasticity. The results of this study indicate that the introduction of alien species can result in selection for induced defences, which may facilitate coexistence between predator and prey under certain conditions.

Keywords

Alien species Alytes muletensis Amphibian declines Natrix maura Predator-prey interactions 

Notes

Acknowledgements

This work was carried out with the co-operation of La Consellaria de Medi Ambient and Associació per la Recuperació del Ferreret. We thank V. Muñoz, F. Kraaijeveld-Smit, A. Román, C. Zayas and R. Barber for logistical support in the field. B. Schmidt and P. Gregory provided helpful comments on earlier drafts of the manuscript. The work was supported by the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology and NERC.

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robin D. Moore
    • 1
  • Richard A. Griffiths
    • 1
  • Cliona M. O’Brien
    • 1
  • Adam Murphy
    • 1
  • David Jay
    • 1
  1. 1.The Durrell Institute of Conservation and EcologyUniversity of KentCanterburyUK

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