Diving beetle offspring oviposited in amphibian spawn prey on the tadpoles upon hatching [article]

John Gould, Jose Valdez, Simon Clulow, John Clulow
2019 bioRxiv   pre-print
In highly ephemeral freshwater habitats, predatory vertebrates are typically unable to become established, leaving an open niche often filled by macroinvertebrate predators. However, these predators are faced with the challenge of finding sufficient food sources as the rapid rate of desiccation prevents the establishment of extended food chains and limits the number of prey species present. It could therefore be advantageous for adults to oviposit their offspring in the presence of future prey
more » ... nce of future prey within sites of extreme ephemerality. We report the first case of adult water beetles ovipositing their eggs within spawn of the sandpaper frog, Lechriodus fletcheri. This behaviour was found among several ponds used by L. fletcheri for reproduction. Beetle eggs oviposited in frog spawn were found to hatch within 24 hours of the surrounding L. fletcheri eggs, with the larvae becoming voracious consumers of the hatched tadpoles. Although it has yet to be established experimentally whether this is an adaptive behaviour, the laying of eggs among potential future tadpole prey in this instance should confer significant fitness benefits for the offspring upon hatching, ensuring that they are provided an immediate source of food at the start of their development and potentially throughout. This oviposition behaviour may be common among water beetles and could form a significant predatory threat for amphibians with a free-swimming larval stage in ephemeral ponds.
doi:10.1101/666008 fatcat:sjge4syb4zdmzdvjdjrjkgr4zm