Larvae of the salamander Hynobius retardatus have two distinct morphs: normal and broad-headed, cannibal morphs. We performed three experiments to differentiate among the following hypotheses: The broad-headed morph is induced to allow: (1) feeding on nutritious conspecifics; (2) exclusion of strong competitors for food or space; or (3) feeding on large, tough prey when smaller prey items are unavailable. When newly hatched larvae were reared with a heterospecific, Rana pirica (an anuran amphibian) tadpoles, the broad-headed morph was induced more frequently compared with those reared with conspecifics. The phenotype expressed depended on the size of the tadpoles: The broad-headed morph occurred more frequently with small and the normal morph with large tadpoles. Metamorphosis occurred sooner in larvae fed conspecifics compared with those fed heterospecific tadpoles, and the mean growth rate of larvae fed conspecifics was significantly faster than that of those fed tadpoles, suggesting that the heterospecific tadpoles were less nutritive than the conspecifics. These results do not support the hypotheses that the broad-headed morph evolved for consuming conspecifics because of their better balance of nutrients or for excluding strong competitors for food or space. We tentatively conclude that the morph evolved to eat large, tough prey, including both conspecifics and heterospecific tadpoles. Because H. retardatus usually spawns very early in the spring in small ponds partially covered with ice and snow, newly hatched larvae may starve from the lack of proper food owing to extremely low water temperatures. Thus, the broad-headed morph of H. retardatus may represent a cold-habitat adaptation to overcome the severe circumstance when the only food items available are relatively large conspecifics or heterospecific tadpoles.
You have requested a machine translation of selected content from our databases. This functionality is provided solely for your convenience and is in no way intended to replace human translation. Neither BioOne nor the owners and publishers of the content make, and they explicitly disclaim, any express or implied representations or warranties of any kind, including, without limitation, representations and warranties as to the functionality of the translation feature or the accuracy or completeness of the translations.
Translations are not retained in our system. Your use of this feature and the translations is subject to all use restrictions contained in the Terms and Conditions of Use of the BioOne website.
Vol. 56 • No. 10