, Volume 170, Issue 3, pp 629–639 | Cite as

Effects of size and size structure on predation and inter-cohort competition in red-eyed treefrog tadpoles

Population ecology - Original research


Individual and relative body size are key determinants of ecological performance, shaping the strength and types of interactions within and among species. Size-dependent performance is particularly important for iteroparous species with overlapping cohorts, determining the ability of new cohorts to invade habitats with older, larger conspecifics. We conducted two mesocosm experiments to examine the role of size and size structure in shaping growth and survival in tadpoles of the red-eyed treefrog (Agalychnis callidryas), a tropical species with a prolonged breeding season. First, we used a response surface design to quantify the competitive effect and response of two tadpole size classes across three competitive environments. Large tadpoles were superior per capita effect competitors, increasing the size difference between cohorts through time at high resource availability. Hatchlings were better per biomass response competitors, and maintained the size difference between cohorts when resource availability was low. However, in contrast to previous studies, small tadpoles never closed the size gap with large tadpoles. Second, we examine the relationship between body size, size structure, and predation by dragonfly nymphs (Anax amazili) on tadpole survival and growth. Hatchlings were more vulnerable to predation; predator and large competitor presence interacted to reduce hatchling growth. Again, the size gap between cohorts increased over time, but increased marginally more with predators present. These findings have implications for understanding how variation in resources and predation over the breeding season will shape population size structure through time and the ability of new cohorts to invade habitats with older conspecifics.


Size structure Age structure Intraspecific competition Predator–prey Non-consumptive predator effect Ontogeny Size scaling 


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© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of BiologyVirginia Commonwealth UniversityRichmondUSA

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