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Tadpole begging reveals high quality
- Dugas, M. B., Strickler, S. A., Stynoski, J. L.
- Journal of evolutionary biology 2017 v.30 no.5 pp. 1024-1033
- Oophaga pumilio, eggs, food deprivation, frogs, hunger, mothers, prediction, progeny, rearing, tadpoles
- Parents can benefit from allocating limited resources nonrandomly among offspring, and offspring solicitation (i.e. begging) is often hypothesized to evolve because it contains information valuable to choosy parents. We tested the predictions of three ‘honest begging’ hypotheses – Signal of Need, Signal of Quality and Signal of Hunger – in the tadpoles of a terrestrial frog (Oophaga pumilio). In this frog, mothers provision tadpoles with trophic eggs, and when mothers visit, tadpoles perform a putative begging signal by stiffening their bodies and vibrating rapidly. We assessed the information content of intense tadpole begging with an experimental manipulation of tadpole condition (need/quality) and food deprivation (hunger). This experiment revealed patterns consistent with the Signal of Quality hypothesis and directly counter to predictions of Signal of Need and Signal of Hunger. Begging effort and performance were higher in more developed and higher condition tadpoles and declined with food deprivation. Free‐living mothers were unlikely to feed tadpoles of a nonbegging species experimentally cross‐fostered with their own, and allocated larger meals to more developed tadpoles and those that vibrated at higher speed. Mother O. pumilio favour their high‐quality young, and because their concurrent offspring are reared in separate nurseries, must do so by making active allocation decisions. Our results suggest that these maternal choices are based at least in part on offspring signals, indicating that offspring solicitation can evolve to signal high quality.