Southern Leopard Frogs, Rana sphenocephala, are habitat generalists occurring in virtually all freshwater habitats within their geographic range, whereas Gopher Frogs, Rana capito, typically breed in ponds that do not normally contain fish. To evaluate the potential for predation by fish to influence the distribution of these species, we conducted a randomized factorial experiment. We examined the survival rate and behavior of tadpoles when exposed to Warmouth Sunfish, Lepomis gulosus, Banded Sunfish, Enneacanthus obesus, and Eastern Mosquitofish, Gambusia holbrooki. We also conducted a choice experiment to examine the survival rate of the two species of tadpoles when a predator is given a choice of both species simultaneously. Lepomis gulosus consumed the most tadpoles and ate significantly more tadpoles of R. capito than R. sphenocephala. Gambusia holbrooki injured the most tadpoles, especially R. capito. Enneacanthus obesus did not have an effect on behavior or survival of either anuran species. Tadpoles of both anurans increased hiding when in the presence of L. gulosus and G. holbrooki, but a greater proportion of R. capito hid than did R. sphenocephala. Our results suggest that R. capito are more vulnerable to predation by fish than are R. sphenocephala. The introduction of fish may play a role in population declines of certain anurans breeding in normally fish-free wetlands, and even small fish, such as mosquitofish, may have significant negative effects on the tadpoles of R. capito. Copyright 2008 Society for the Study or Amphibians and Reptiles.
Additional publication details
Effects of predatory fish on survival and behavior of larval gopher frogs (Rana capito) and Southern Leopard Frogs (Rana sphenocephala)