Increasing activity levels permit greater food intake for use towards growth and reproduction, consequently increasing predation risk via increased detection. Larval anurans are models to examine activity level-predation risk tradeoffs, as they occupy a variety of lentic habitats that impose constraints on the distribution and abundance of species. Ephemeral ponds have a low abundance and diversity of predators and as a result tadpole species tend to have high foraging rates for rapid development. Permanent ponds generally possess a greater diversity and abundance of predators and tadpoles inhabiting these locations tend to have low activity rates or chemical defenses to minimize predation risk. The objective of this research was to examine how interspecific variation in activity level and response to predation risk, corresponds to the distributions of tadpole species along the hydroperiod gradient. Furthermore, we examined the intraspecific variation in activity level among the species. We conducted a series of laboratory experiments in which we quantified baseline activity patterns and the change in activity after the addition of a predator or exposure to alarm cues, for 12 species of larval anurans native to East Texas. Species that maintained a high activity level generally occupied ephemeral ponds and species that maintained low activity levels generally occupied permanent ponds. Only one species (Gastrophryne carolinensis) decreased their activity level in the presence of predator cues or conspecific alarm cues. These results highlight this tradeoff can have consequences on the life histories of multiple species, providing insight into how it affects the organization of ecological communities.
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Vol. 183 • No. 2