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Publication type: Journal Article
Document type: Full Paper

Year: 2017

Author(s): Pašukonis, A; Beck, KB; Fischer, MT; Weinlein, S; Stückler, S; Ringler, E

Title: Induced parental care in a poison frog: a tadpole cross-fostering experiment.

Source: J Exp Biol. 2017;



Authors Vetmeduni Vienna:

Ringler Eva Maria,

Vetmed Research Units
Comparative Cognition,


Project(s): Behavioural flexibility in anuran amphibians

Fitness in complex life cycles


Abstract:
Understanding the external stimuli and natural contexts that elicit complex behaviors, such as parental care, is key in linking behavioral mechanisms to their real-life function. Poison frogs provide obligate parental care by shuttling their tadpoles from terrestrial clutches to aquatic nurseries, but little is known about the proximate mechanisms that control these behaviors. In this study, we used Allobates femoralis, a poison frog with predominantly male parental care, to investigate whether tadpole transport can be induced in both sexes by transferring unrelated tadpoles to the backs of adults in the field. Specifically, we asked if the presence of tadpoles on an adult"s back can override the decision-making rules preceding tadpole pick-up and induce the recall of spatial memory necessary for finding tadpole deposition sites. We used telemetry to facilitate accurate tracking of individual frogs and spatial analyses to compare movement trajectories. All tested individuals transported their foster-tadpoles to water pools outside their home area. Contrary to our expectation, we found no sex difference in the likelihood to transport nor in the spatial accuracy of finding tadpole deposition sites. We reveal that a stereotypical cascade of parental behaviors that naturally involves sex-specific offspring recognition strategies and the use of spatial memory can be manipulated by experimental placement of unrelated tadpoles on adult frogs. As individuals remained inside their home area when only the jelly from tadpole-containing clutches was brushed on the back, we speculate that tactile rather than chemical stimuli are triggering these parental behaviors.


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