Density is more important than predation risk for predicting growth and developmental outcomes in tadpoles of spotted tree frog, Litoria spenceri (Dubois 1984)

Tracy Lynette Plenderleith, Christopher D Johnstone, Richard D Reina, David G Chapple

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2 Citations (Scopus)


The diverse benefits of group living include protection against predators through dilution effects and greater group vigilance. However, intraspecific aggregation can decrease developmental rates and survival in prey species. We investigated the impact on tadpole development and behaviour of the interaction between population density and predation risk. Spotted tree frog (Litoria spenceri: Hylidae, Dubois 1984) tadpoles were kept at one of three different densities (two tadpoles per litre, five tadpoles per litre or 10 tadpoles per litre) until metamorphosis in the presence or absence of predatory cues. We aimed to determine the influence of population density, predation and the interaction of both factors in determining growth rates in tadpoles. Tadpoles were measured weekly to assess growth and development and filmed to quantify differences in activity and feeding frequency between groups. Generally, tadpoles housed without predators had longer developmental periods when housed with a predator, but there was no effect on tail length or total length. There was no effect of either predation cues or density on percentage of individuals feeding or moving. Although the effects of the presence of predators alone may appear to be less than the effects of the presence of competitors, the prioritisation of competitiveness over predator avoidance may increase vulnerability of tadpoles to the lethal threat of predators. This is particularly important in species such as L. spenceri, which is at risk from introduced fish predators.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1285-1297
Number of pages13
JournalAustral Ecology
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2019


  • behaviour
  • life history
  • Litoria spenceri
  • morphology
  • phenotypic plasticity

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