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Costs and Benefits of a Predator-Induced Polyphenism in the Gray Treefrog Hyla chrysoscelis

S. Andy McCollum and Josh Van Buskirk
Evolution
Vol. 50, No. 2 (Apr., 1996), pp. 583-593
DOI: 10.2307/2410833
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2410833
Page Count: 11
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Costs and Benefits of a Predator-Induced Polyphenism in the Gray Treefrog Hyla chrysoscelis
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Abstract

The phenotypes of gray treefrog (Hyla chrysoscelis) tadpoles vary depending on whether predators are present in the pond. Tadpoles reared in ponds with predatory dragonfly larvae are relatively inactive compared with tadpoles in predator-free ponds, and have relatively large, brightly colored tailfins with dark spots along the margins. Models for the evolution of plasticity predict that induced phenotypes such as this should confer high fitness relative to the typical phenotype when in the presence of predators, but should be costly when the predator is absent. Our study tested for the predicted fitness trade-off in H. chrysoscelis by first rearing tadpoles in mesocosms under conditions that induce the alternate phenotypes, and then comparing the performance of both phenotypes in both environments. We generated the two phenotypes by rearing tadpoles in 600-liter outdoor artificial ponds that contained either two caged dragonflies (Anax junius) or an empty cage. Tadpoles from the two environments showed significantly different behavior, tail shape, and tail color within two weeks of exposure. We compared the growth and survival of both phenotypes over four weeks in ponds where there was no actual risk of predation. Under these conditions, both phenotypes grew at the same rate, but the predator-induced phenotype had significantly lower survival than the typical phenotype, indicating that induced tadpoles suffered greater mortality from causes other than odonate predation. We tested the susceptibility of both phenotypes to predation by exposing them to dragonflies in 24-h predation trials. The predator-induced phenotype showed a significant survival advantage in these trials. These results confirm that the predator-induced phenotype in H. chrysoscelis larvae is associated with fitness costs and benefits that explain why the defensive phenotype is induced rather than constitutive.

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