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Responses of bullfrog tadpoles to hypoxia and predators

McIntyre, Peter B., McCollum, S. Andy
Oecologia 2000 v.125 no.2 pp. 301-308
Ambystoma tigrinum, Lithobates catesbeianus, aquatic organisms, dissolved oxygen, hypoxia, laboratory experimentation, lungs, oxygen, predation, predator-prey relationships, predators, salamanders and newts, swimming, tadpoles, tanks
Low dissolved oxygen concentrations present numerous challenges for non-air-breathing aquatic organisms. Amphibian larvae and their predators can respond to oxygen levels by altering their behavior and physiology, but the ecological consequences of these responses are generally unknown. We conducted two laboratory experiments to study the effects of dissolved oxygen on respiratory behavior and susceptibility to predation of larval bullfrogs (Rana catesbeiana). In the first, we exposed small, lungless tadpoles to a predatory salamander larva (Ambystoma tigrinum) under high and low oxygen conditions. More tadpoles were consumed in high oxygen tanks than in low ones, presumably because salamanders remained near the surface in the low oxygen tanks while most tadpoles rested on the bottom. Tadpole activity depended on both oxygen and predator presence: swimming decreased after addition of salamanders under high oxygen, but increased under low oxygen. In the second experiment, we examined the effect of predator chemical cues on the air-breathing rate of large tadpoles with well-developed lungs under low oxygen conditions. In the presence of chemical cues produced by dragonfly larvae consuming bullfrog tadpoles, air-breathing and swimming were significantly reduced relative to controls. These experiments demonstrate the potential impact of dissolved oxygen on predator-prey interactions, and suggest that outcomes depend on the respiratory ecology of both predator and prey.