Forget the audience: tadpoles release similar disturbance cues regardless of kinship or familiarity

Bairos-Novak, Kevin R., Crane, Adam L., Achtymichuk, Gabrielle H., Hsin, Jonathan, Rivera-Hernandez, Ita A. E., Simko, Olena M., Wrynn, Theresa E., Chivers, Douglas P., and Ferrari, Maud C. O. (2020) Forget the audience: tadpoles release similar disturbance cues regardless of kinship or familiarity. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 74. 147.

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Group-living prey rely on social information such as alarm signals and other social cues to avoid predation. By definition, "signals" imply that a message is voluntarily directed at receivers (i.e., the audience), whereas "cues" are released incidentally regardless of the audience composition. Thus, audience effects can be used to differentiate between signals and cues when communication is difficult to observe or quantify. In at least two fish species, chemical disturbance cues are released during a predator attack to signal to familiar audiences about predation risk. Here, we examined whether audience composition affects disturbance cue release in wood frog (Lithobates sylvaticus) tadpoles to better understand the function of disturbance cues across aquatic prey. Groups of tadpoles underwent simulated predator attacks to obtain disturbance cues. The groups were either familiar and related, unfamiliar and related, familiar and unrelated, or unfamiliar and unrelated. To assess the relative potency of each cue, we used a behavioral bioassay design involving activity changes in independent tadpole receivers (unfamiliar and unrelated to the donors). If tadpoles use disturbance cues to signal related and/or familiar individuals, we predicted increased fright responses in receivers to cues obtained from those groups. However, we detected no effect of audience composition, indicating that tadpoles release similar disturbance cues regardless of audience kinship or familiarity. Nevertheless, disturbance cues evoked a consistent antipredator response in receivers indicating that these chemicals still act as reliable risk cues. Further comparative studies using audience effects are necessary to understand how disturbance cues have evolved across aquatic prey. Significance statement When aquatic prey encounter predators and are frightened, they release chemicals known as "disturbance cues" into the water. These chemicals alert other prey nearby of potential danger. For example, wood frog tadpoles release disturbance cues when they are being chased by a predator. Tadpoles that smell the disturbance cues of other tadpoles are less likely to be eaten by predators. Since wood frog tadpoles are often found in shallow ponds filled with both familiar siblings as well as other tadpoles that are unfamiliar and unrelated, we wondered if tadpoles would produce more disturbance cues when familiar or related tadpoles were nearby. Here, we show that no matter who the audience members are, familiar siblings or not, tadpoles release disturbance cues that cause similar fright. This suggests that disturbance cues are not released differently depending on the audience in this species.

Item ID: 66178
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1432-0762
Keywords: Predator-prey, Wood frog, Rana, Chemical cues, Chemosensory, Fright response
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Copyright Information: © Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2020.
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All data from this manuscript will be freely available as online supporting information at a personal GitHub repository. Please see Related URLs.

Funders: Natural Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC)
Projects and Grants: NSERC Discovery Grant, Banting Postdoctoral Scholarship, Canada Graduate Scholarship
Date Deposited: 09 Dec 2020 07:35
FoR Codes: 31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3109 Zoology > 310907 Animal physiological ecology @ 100%
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