Assessing the risk effects of native predators on the exotic American bullfrog (Lithobates catesbeianus) and their indirect consequences to ecosystem function.
Understanding the factors and mechanisms that affect the impacts of invasive species in invaded environments has been widely debated among researchers. However, few studies about invasive species have explored the effects of predation risks by native predators on exotic prey. Herein, the traditional invasive predator-native prey framework was reversed. We tested if tadpoles, of the worldwide invasive American Bullfrog Lithobates catesbeianus, were affected by the predation risk imposed by native predators. We used two different species of belostomatid predators and tested whether and how predation-induced phenotypic plasticity on L. catesbeianus reverberated in morphological, physiological, and ecosystem-level processes. Individuals of L. catesbeianus modified their morphological (tail muscle width), behavioral (activity and foraging), and physiological (growth and growth efficiency) traits in the presence of predation risk. Based on the observed morphological changes, our results suggest that prey may recognize predator-specific cues. In addition, we observed that L. catesbeianus' responses to predation risk can affect ecosystem-level properties, by inducing trophic cascades and reducing animal-mediated nutrient recycling rates. In summary, our study supports that exotic prey species who are subjected to native predators may display anti-predator responses, with implications for their development, as well as possible ecosystem-level effects.