Prey's traits mediate a neotropical toad diet

BioRxiv : the Preprint Server for Biology
Matthew T. McElroy, David A A Donoso

Abstract

1. Despite the widespread occurrence of myrmecophagy in anurans it is generally unclear whether ant-specialists feed on ants opportunistically or whether they preferentially select for certain species, potentially favoring specific morphological, ecological, or nutritional traits. 2. We flushed 105 stomachs of a lowland neotropical toad, Rhinella alata, and identified each consumed ant to species level. We used linear selectivity to calculate predator preference by comparing the abundances of consumed species to their abundances in the leaf litter community on Barro Colorado Island, Panama. We conducted multiple regression models to test whether linear selectivity or general predator preference related to seven morphological characteristics and two measurements of nutritional content. 3. Rhinella alata preferentially harvested 24 ant species. Other species were either avoided (n=34) or were eaten opportunistically (n=26). We found that R. alata predominantly preys upon large ants that are textured with hair and/or rugosity and preference for prey did not relate to nutrition content. Rhinella alata avoided small ants even if they were hyper abundant in the environment, and preferentially ate chemically-defended and aggressive an...Continue Reading

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