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Dendropsophus minutus (Hylidae) tadpole evaluation of predation risk by fishing spiders (Thaumasia sp.: Pisauridae) is modulated by size and social environment

Abstract

Predator–prey interactions can cross ecosystem boundaries and the outcome of these interactions is seen in prey defensive behavior. We aimed to test how the presence of a semi-aquatic predator alters the behavior and foraging microhabitat of Dendropsophus minutus tadpoles when they are either in groups or alone. We hypothesized that in the presence of a predator, Thaumasia fishing spider, tadpoles will be (1) less active; (2) forage far from the predator and; (3) forage evenly when in groups. We measured activity and foraging microhabitat as the proportion of time spent moving, and the total percentage of food removed from the upper and lower inner surfaces of the aquarium, respectively. The presence of the spider reduced tadpole activity by 24% compared to treatments without predators. Contrary to our expectations, solitary tadpoles were 34% more active than tadpoles in groups, and larger larvae were less active than smaller ones. The presence of the fishing spider decreased tadpoles activity, but the presence of conspecifics did not dilute the predator effect. Larger larvae are under more substantial selective pressure than smaller ones. Finally, our experiment empirically demonstrates that predator effects are transferable, generating a cascading system, and affecting the recipient ecosystem in various manners.

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Acknowledgements

The present work was carried out with the support of the Coordination of Improvement of Higher Level Personnel—Brazil (CAPES)—funding Code 001 and the Graduate Program in Ecology and Evolution of the Federal University of Goiás. FN thanks funding by Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico -CNPq (301232/2018-0, 441214/2016-9 and 420051/2016-3). We acknowledge Dr. L Signorelli and Dr. V Moraes, for suggestions and field assistance. We also thank the professors Dr. R Daud and Dr. F Teresa for their insightful comments and suggestions. All applicable institutional and national guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed.

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JLM and FN conceived and designed the experiments. JLM performed the experiments. JLM and FN analyzed the data. JLM and FN wrote the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Fausto Nomura.

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de Lima Mamede, J., Nomura, F. Dendropsophus minutus (Hylidae) tadpole evaluation of predation risk by fishing spiders (Thaumasia sp.: Pisauridae) is modulated by size and social environment. J Ethol 39, 217–223 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10164-021-00696-0

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Keywords

  • Induced defenses
  • Trait-mediated indirect interaction
  • Cascade effect
  • Indirect interactions
  • Food web