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Visual recognition and coevolutionary history drive responses of amphibians to an invasive predator


Melotto, Andrea et al. (2021), Visual recognition and coevolutionary history drive responses of amphibians to an invasive predator, Dryad, Dataset,


During biotic invasions, native prey are abruptly exposed to novel predators and are faced with unprecedented predatory pressures. Under these circumstances, the lack of common evolutionary history may hamper predator recognition by native prey, undermining the expression of effective anti-predatory responses. Nonetheless, mechanisms allowing prey to overcome evolutionary naïveté exist. For instance, in naïve prey, history of coevolution with similar native predators or recognition of general traits characterizing predators can favor recognition of stimuli released by invasive predators. However, few studies assessed how these mechanisms shape prey response at the community level. Here, we evaluated behavioral responses in naïve larvae of 13 amphibian species to chemical and visual cues associated with an invasive predator, the American red swamp crayfish (Procambarus clarkii). Moreover, we investigated how variation among species responses was related to their coexistence with a similar native crayfish predator. Amphibian larvae altered their behavior in presence of visual stimuli of the alien crayfish, while chemical cues elicited feeble and contrasting behavioral shifts. Activity reduction was the most common and stronger response, whereas in some species we detected more heterogeneous strategies also involving distancing and rapid escape response. Interestingly, species sharing coevolutionary history with the native crayfish were able to finely tune their response to the invasive one, performing bursts to escape. These results suggest native prey can respond to invasive predators through recognition of generic risk cues (e.g., approaching large shapes), still the capability of modulating anti-predator strategies may also depend on their coevolutionary history with similar native predators.

Usage Notes

Some tests were excluded from the analysis due to low quality of the video (see column "analyzed" in the dataset).