Determining sensitive stages for learning to detect predators in larval bronzed frogs: Importance of alarm cues in learning
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Successful survival and reproduction of prey organisms depend on their ability to detect their potential predators accurately and respond effectively with suitable defences. Predator detection can be innate or can be acquired through learning. We studied prey–predator interactions in the larval bronzed frogs (Sylvirana temporalis), which have the innate ability to detect certain predators. We conducted a series of experiments to determine if the larval S. temporalis rely solely on innate predator detection mechanisms or can also learn to use more specific cues such as conspecific alarm cues for the purpose. The results of our study clearly indicate that larval S. temporalis use both innate and learned mechanisms for predator detection. Predator-naïve tadpoles could detect kairomones alone as a potential threat and responded by reducing activity, suggesting an innate predator detection mechanism. Surprisingly, predator-naïve tadpoles failed to detect conspecific alarm cues as a potential threat, but learned to do so through experience. After acquiring the ability to detect conspecific alarm cues, they could associate novel predator cues with conspecific alarm cues. Further, post feeding stages of larval S. temporalis are sensitive for learning to detect conspecific alarm cues to label novel predators.
KeywordsAssociative learning chemical cues innate predator detection learned predator detection Sylvirana temporalis
The research work was supported from grants from the University Grants Commission [F. 37-467/2009 (SR)] and UGC-CAS Phase II, Department of Zoology, University of Pune. SMG is grateful to UGC for a research fellowship. Thanks are due to Ms Richa Sharma, Department of Statistics, University of Pune, for her help in statistical analyses of the data.
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