Previous exposure of predatory fish to a pesticide alters palatability of larval amphibian prey


Habitat preferences of organisms are reliant on a variety of factors. For amphibians specifically, preferences can depend on factors such as food availability, water quality, and the presence of potential predators. Because some amphibians breed in permanent bodies of water (e.g., ponds), the threat of predation (e.g., from fish) is constant. Thus, some amphibians are unpalatable to many predators, allowing them to coexist in the same habitats. However, the addition of anthropogenic stressors (i.e., pesticides) may alter the perceived palatability of prey items to predators. The authors tested the hypothesis that bluegill fish (Lepomis macrochirus), previously exposed to the pesticide carbaryl, would consume more unpalatable prey (Fowler's toad [Anaxyrus fowleri] tadpoles) than unexposed predators. Carbaryl is a pesticide that attacks the nervous system and is linked to taste sense in organisms. Moreover, the authors conducted an identical test using palatable prey (gray treefrog [Hyla versicolor] tadpoles) and predicted that no change in preference would be observed. In support of the primary hypothesis, bluegill exposed to the highest concentration of carbaryl consumed more A. fowleri tadpoles compared with those exposed to carbaryl at the lowest concentration or water control. Moreover, an effect of carbaryl on predation success on H. versicolor tadpoles was not observed. The present study shows that an anthropogenic stressor (carbaryl) can alter the perceived palatability of noxious prey to fish predators, potentially altering predator-prey relationships in natural settings. © 2013 SETAC.

Publication Title

Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry