Mild segregation in the breeding preferences of an invasive anuran (Discoglossus pictus) and its main native competitor (Epidalea calamita) in ephemeral ponds

in Amphibia-Reptilia
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Abstract

The choice of breeding sites by pond-breeding anurans has notable consequences for the fitness of larvae. Hence, beyond pond typology and phenology, adults can also discriminate according to several other features, for instance to favour allotopy with potential competitors. However, the lack of shared evolutionary history might impede proper ecological differentiation with alien species during the first stages of invasions. Here, we studied several possible sources of ecological segregation between the invasive Discoglossus pictus and the native Epidalea calamita in ephemeral ponds, where the native toad hardly had competition before the arrival of the invasive frog. During spring of 2016, we periodically surveyed 69 ephemeral ponds in three areas with different invasion histories to detect the presence/absence of eggs and tadpoles of these species. Invasive D. pictus started breeding earlier than E. calamita, but differences were not significant. Similarly, there were not clear differences among areas with different invasion histories. However, we found for both species a mutual tendency to directly avoid larval syntopy at the end of the reproductive season. We also found interspecific differences in the features that both species use for pond choice, preferring the native species shallower and less vegetated ephemeral ponds. Globally however, co-occurrence was high, pointing at other processes as key to the coexistence between both species in these habitats.

Mild segregation in the breeding preferences of an invasive anuran (Discoglossus pictus) and its main native competitor (Epidalea calamita) in ephemeral ponds

in Amphibia-Reptilia

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Figures

  • View in gallery

    Results of the co-occurrence analysis for all possible combinations of tadpoles and eggs of each species. Expected co-occurrence and observed co-occurrence are expressed in number of ponds. In italics, the combinations that showed significantly lower co-occurrence than randomly expected.

  • View in gallery

    Summary of habitat features influencing pond selection of both species, including interactions. Terms in bold were present in the best model explaining pond use by the corresponding species. In plain text, terms that were present at least once in the best ten models for each species. Terms absent in the table were found to be unimportant for both species. For simple terms, (+) and (–) indicate the effect of increasing values of the term on the probability of use by the corresponding species (Abbreviations/explanations: Pop = study area, population; Sunshine = percentage of the pond usually under direct sunlight).

  • View in gallery

    Probability for both species to reproduce at least once in an ephemeral pond during the spring season – according to data in this study –, depending on (left) the presence of vegetation around the pond – less than one metre from the water – and (right) the pond maximum depth. To ease visualization, locally weighted scatterplot smoothing lines were added for each species.

  • View in gallery

    Mean point of reproduction in the spring of 2016 for each species, differences between species in the mean point of reproduction in days (in positive: invasive species reproduces first; in negative: the native species reproduces first), and p-value for the differences.

  • View in gallery

    Percentage of occurrence of tadpoles and eggs of each species in the surveyed ponds along all the reproductive season of 2016.

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