Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

No evidence for innate differences in tadpole behavior between natural, urbanized, and invasive populations.

Abstract

Animals are increasingly challenged to respond to novel or rapidly changing habitats due to urbanization and/or displacement outside their native range by humans. Behavioral differences, such as increased boldness (i.e., propensity for risk-taking), are often observed in animals persisting in novel environments; however, in many cases, it is unclear how these differences arise (e.g., through developmental plasticity or evolution) or when they arise (i.e., at what age or developmental stage). In the Guttural Toad (Sclerophrys gutturalis), adult urban toads from both native and invasive ranges are bolder than conspecifics in natural habitats. Here, we reared Guttural Toad tadpoles in a common garden experiment, and tested for innate differences in boldness across their development and between individuals whose parents and lineage came from rural-native, urban-native, and urban-invasive localities (i.e., origin populations). Tadpoles did not differ in their boldness or in how their boldness changed over ontogeny based on their origin populations. In general, tadpoles typically became less bold as they aged, irrespective of origin population. Our findings indicate that differences in boldness in free-living adult Guttural Toads are not innate in the tadpole stage and we discuss three possible mechanisms driving phenotypic divergence in adult boldness for the focus of future research: habitat-dependent developmental effects on tadpole behavior, decoupled evolution between the tadpole and adult stage, and/or behavioral flexibility, learning, or acclimatization during the adult stage.