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Acoustic underwater signals with a probable function during competitive feeding in a tadpole

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Abstract

Acoustic communication is widespread among adult stages of terrestrial animals and fish and has also been observed in insect larvae. We report underwater acoustic communication in the larvae of a frog, Gephyromantis azzurrae, from Isalo, a sandstone massif in western Madagascar. According to our field data, these tadpoles live in streams and prefer habitats characterized by comparatively low temperatures, shallow water depth, and a relatively fast current. Feeding experiments indicated that the tadpoles are carnivorous and macrophagous. They consumed insect larvae and, to a lesser extent, small shrimps, and conspecific as well as heterospecific tadpoles. Calls of these tadpoles consisted either of single click notes or of irregular series of various clicks. Some complex calls have a pulsed structure with three to nine indistinct energy pulses. Production of the pulses coincided with rapid closure of the jaw sheaths and often with an upward movement of the body. Calls were emitted while attacking prey and occurred significantly more often when attacking conspecifics. Tadpoles that had not been fed for some time emitted sounds more frequently than those that had been regularly fed. The spectral frequency of the calls differed in tadpole groups of different size and was higher in groups of smaller tadpoles, suggesting that spectral frequency carries some information about tadpole size which might be important during competitive feeding to assess size and strength of competitors. This report differs from those for the larvae of South American horned frogs, Ceratophrys ornata. These are the only other tadpoles for which sound production has reliably been reported but the calls of Ceratophrys tadpoles occur mainly in a defensive context.

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Acknowledgments

We are grateful to Parfait Bora, Liliane Raharivololoniaina, and Katharina Wollenberg for their assistance in the field, and to Angelica Crottini and Solohery Rasamison for their attempt to perform additional experiments in 2009, hampered by the lack of rain in that year. This work has been carried out in the framework of various collaboration agreements with the Université d’Antananarivo, Département de Biologie Animale, and we are grateful to Noromalala Raminosoa, Olga Ramilijaona, and Daniel Rakotondravony for continued support. The Malagasy authorities kindly granted research and export permits. This work was carried out in the framework of a project of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (grant VE247/2-1) and further supported by the Volkswagen Foundation.

Author information

Correspondence to Miguel Vences.

Supplementary online materials

Sequence of video scenes showing sound production in tadpoles of Gephyromantis azzurrae.

Video sequence showing a tadpole of G. azzurrae following a small crustacean (Gammaridae) and attacking it multiple times (MPG 9,678 kb)

Video sequence showing a tadpole of G. azzurrae attacking a small crustacean (Gammaridae) and swallowing it (MPG 5,654 kb)

Video sequence showing an intensive fight between two tadpoles of G. azzurrae of similar sizes, both emitting complex calls (of partly very fast note repetition rate) during the fight (MPG 8,868 kb)

Video sequence showing a tadpole of G. azzurrae attacking a semitransparent silicone tadpole model that is moved in front of the tadpole, and emitting calls during the attack (MPG 9,764 kb)

ESM 1

Video sequence showing a tadpole of G. azzurrae following a small crustacean (Gammaridae) and attacking it multiple times (MPG 9,678 kb)

ESM 2

Video sequence showing a tadpole of G. azzurrae attacking a small crustacean (Gammaridae) and swallowing it (MPG 5,654 kb)

ESM 3

Video sequence showing an intensive fight between two tadpoles of G. azzurrae of similar sizes, both emitting complex calls (of partly very fast note repetition rate) during the fight (MPG 8,868 kb)

ESM 4

Video sequence showing a tadpole of G. azzurrae attacking a semitransparent silicone tadpole model that is moved in front of the tadpole, and emitting calls during the attack (MPG 9,764 kb)

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Reeve, E., Ndriantsoa, S.H., Strauß, A. et al. Acoustic underwater signals with a probable function during competitive feeding in a tadpole. Naturwissenschaften 98, 135–143 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00114-010-0752-1

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Keywords

  • Amphibia
  • Mantellidae
  • Gephyromantis azzurrae
  • Tadpole
  • Sound production