Tadpoles in small, ephemeral pools whose duration and food content are unpredictable can potentially encounter substantial variation in diet composition and availability. We compared the effects of 10 days of food deprivation occurring early, midway and late in ontogeny on the metamorphic size and bioenergetic properties of Hyla chrysoscelis tadpoles. Tadpoles fed throughout ontogeny were controls. Metamorphs from tadpoles starved early and midway in ontogeny had the same snout-vent length and dry mass as controls, but the time to metamorphosis was extended by 8 and 19% respectively. Metamorphs of tadpoles starved late in development attained 85% of the length and 55% of the mass of controls, metamorphosed at the same time as controls, and suffered mortality 15 times greater than other treatments, perhaps because they were near the absolute minimum necessary level of energy reserves. There were no significant differences in percent organic matter, percent tissue water, condition index, and protein or glycogen concentrations between any experimental and control treatments. If food deprivation occurred early in development, the tadpoles caught up to the size of controls, but an extended developmental time would increase the risk of predation or habitat loss. If food reductions occur late in development, perhaps magnified by pond desiccation, tadpoles are stimulated to metamorphose at the same time as controls but at a smaller size. The bioenergetic composition of tadpoles at metamorphosis is unaffected by time of food deprivation.
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Audo, M.C., Mann, T.M., Polk, T.L. et al. Food deprivation during different periods of tadpole (Hyla chrysoscelis) ontogeny affects metamorphic performance differently. Oecologia 103, 518–522 (1995). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00328691