Environmental substrates alter survival and foraging efficiencies in tadpoles


Tadpoles of many anuran species live in bodies of water that contain a variety of environmental substrates to which food can be a fixed. Especially for benthic and planktonic feeders, acquiring food from various surfaces may differentially wear tadpole mouthparts and cause alterations in foraging efficiencies and subsequent growth. We conducted an experiment to test the hypothesis that foraging substrate type (leaves, stones, wood, glass slides, and no-substrate control) would a effect Southern Leopard Frog (Lithobates sphenocephalus) (syn. Rana sphenocephala) tadpole mouthpart damage, percentage of gut that contained food (gut contents), and subsequent body condition. Substrates differentially impacted tadpole survival with significant mortality observed in leaf treatments compared to no-substrate controls. According to a path analysis, only substrate and gut contents were significantly related. Substrate type did not directly influence mouthpart damage or body condition, nor were significant pathways observed between the dependent variables. We conclude that environmental substrates may alter feeding efficiencies and subsequent survival in amphibian larvae, and future research must account for the effects of these naturally occurring variables.

Publication Title

Herpetological Conservation and Biology

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