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Oecologia. 2004 Feb;138(3):350-9. Epub 2003 Dec 12.

Predator induced phenotypic plasticity in the pinewoods tree frog, Hyla femoralis: necessary cues and the cost of development.

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Department of Natural Resources, University of New Hampshire, 226 James Hall, Durham, NH 03824, USA.


Predator-induced defenses can result from non-contact cues associated with the presence of a feeding predator; however, the nature of the predator cue has not been determined. We tested the role of two non-contact cues, metabolites of digestion of conspecific prey released by the predator and alarm pheromones released by attacked conspecific prey, in the development of inducible defenses by exposing pinewoods tree frog (Hyla femoralis) tadpoles to non-lethal dragonfly (Anax junius) larvae fed either inside experimental bins or removed from the bins for feeding to eliminate alarm pheromones. The costs associated with the development of the induced morphology were also investigated by providing the tadpoles with two food levels intended to provide adequate or growth limiting resources. The generalized morphological response of H. femoralis tadpoles to predators included the development of bodies and tails that were both deeper and shorter, smaller overall body size, and increased orange tail fin coloration and black tail outline. Metabolites of digestion were sufficient to initiate development of inducible defenses; however, the combination of metabolites and alarm cue resulted in a greater response. Furthermore, growth and development were slowed in tadpoles that expressed the induced morphology; however, this growth cost was insufficient to preclude the development of the induced morphology when food resources were low. These results indicate that two aspects of the indirect predator cue work together to trigger a morphological anti-predator response.

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