When confronted by signals of predators presence, many aquatic organisms modify their phenotype (e.g., behaviour or morphology) to reduce their risk of predation. A principal means by which organisms assess predation risk is through chemical cues produced by the predators and/or prey during predation events. Such responses to predation risk can directly affect prey fitness and indirectly affect the fitness of species with which the prey interacts. Accurate assessment of the cue will affect the adaptive nature, and hence evolution, of the phenotypic response. It is therefore, important to understand factors affecting the assessment of chemical cues. Here I examined the effect of the age of chemical cues arising from an invertebrate predator, a larval dragonfly (Anax junius), which was fed bullfrog tadpoles, on the behavioural response (activity level and position) of bullfrog tadpoles. The bullfrog response to chemical cues declined as a function of chemical cue age, indicating the degradation of the chemical cue was on the order of 2–4 days. Further, the decay occurred more rapidly when the chemical cue was placed in pond water rather than well water. These results indicate a limitation of the tadpoles to interpret factors that affect the magnitude of the chemical cue and hence accurately assess predation risk. These findings also have implications for experimental design and the adaptation of phenotypic responses to chemical cues of predation risk.
kairomone chemical cue nonlethal effect trait-mediated Rana catesbeianaphenotypic plasticity