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PLoS One. 2013 Aug 29;8(8):e73564. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0073564. eCollection 2013.

Sight of a predator induces a corticosterone stress response and generates fear in an amphibian.

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Environmental Futures Centre, School of Environment, Griffith University, Gold Coast Campus, Southport, Australia.


Amphibians, like other animals, generate corticosterone or cortisol glucocorticoid responses to stimuli perceived to be threatening. It is generally assumed that the corticosterone response of animals to capture and handling reflects the corticosterone response to stimuli such as the sight of a predator that are thought to be natural stressors. Fijian ground frogs (Platymantisvitiana) are preyed upon by the introduced cane toads (Rhinellamarina), and we used ground frogs to test the hypothesis that the sight of a predator will induce a corticosterone stress response in an amphibian. Urinary corticosterone metabolite concentrations increased in male ground frogs exposed to the sight of a toad for 1, 3 or 6 h, whereas corticosterone did not change in frogs exposed to another male ground frog, a ball, or when no stimulus was present in the test compartment. The frogs exposed to a toad initially moved towards the stimulus then moved away, whereas frogs exposed to another frog moved towards the test frog and remained closer to the frog than at the start of the test. Tonic immobility (TI) was measured as an index of fearfulness immediately after the test exposure of the frogs to a stimulus. The duration of TI was longer in frogs exposed to a toad than to another frog or to a ball. The results provide novel evidence that the sight of a predator can induce a corticosterone response and lead to increased fearfulness in amphibians. In addition, they show that endemic frogs can recognise an introduced predator as a threat.

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