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Arboreal red-eyed treefrog embryos can hatch prematurely in response to egg predators. Induced early hatchlings face aquatic predators when less developed and for longer than do later hatchlings; both factors may alter survival through the high-risk early larval period. Prior work focused on developmental effects of induced hatching. In 24 h trials, less developed hatchlings were more vulnerable to three aquatic predators (shrimp, fish, water bugs) but had similar or better survival than full-term hatchlings with libellulid and aeschnid dragonfly nymphs. However, it is unknown how developmental effects and duration of exposure to predators combine to create the net effect of early hatching. Here we measured costs of early hatching over a 72 h period, from first hatching competence past peak spontaneous hatching. Embryos hatched at age 4 or 6 days were exposed to water bugs, aeshnids, or libellulids. Early-hatched tadpoles suffered higher mortality than late hatchlings with all three predators. The longer exposure of early hatchlings to aquatic predators reversed their initial phenotypic advantage with aeshnids and revealed a cost of early hatching with libellulids where none was apparent from phenotypes alone. In other experiments, early-hatched tadpoles reared without predators grew more quickly than those reared with predators cues, which grew more quickly than age-matched embryos, revealing phenotypic effects of both predator cues and the egg vs. aquatic environment. Nonetheless, any potential benefits of predator-induced phenotypes on tadpole survival were insufficient to compensate for the increased duration of predator exposure that is a consequence of hatching early.
From the Conference Program at http://www.sicb.org/meetings/2011/schedule/abstractdetails.php3?id=237
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VCU Biology Presentations