April 27, 2012

Anti-Predator Behavior in Xenopus Laevis

Eli Poirier, Advisor: Bonnie Ploger

Animals must be aware of predation risk in order to balance foraging and finding mates with the risk of being consumed. Prey use a variety of behaviors to avoid predators. The African-Clawed Frog (Xenopus Laevis) responds with freezing and fleeing when exposed to conspecific disturbance chemicals in a laboratory setting. However, because the frogs have only been shown to do these behaviors in-lab in response to disturbance cues, we cannot be sure that these behaviors are actually anti-predator behaviors. To see if they were, frogs were exposed to two treatments. An attack treatment was created with a simulated attack by a plastic great egret. The other treatment was not disturbed. Each frog (N=31) received both treatments on different days in a randomly determined order. The amount of time frogs spent motionless (“tucking”) versus fleeing (“darting”) was compared when frogs were disturbed versus undisturbed. Disturbed frogs tucked significantly more than undisturbed frogs and disturbed frogs darted more than undisturbed frogs suggesting that these may be anti-predator behaviors.