Feeding habits and food choice of anurans found on two islands in the lower Danube floodplain were studied for two years. The five most abundant anuran species included in this study were Bombina bombina, Hyla arborea, Pelobates fuscus, Rana esculenta and R. ridibunda. In B. bombina the niche breadths of young and adults were of similar magnitude and the degree of overlap between these size classes was high. In Rana esculenta complex young individuals had a much broader trophic niche than adults. A low degree of overlap existed between young and adults, suggesting that the various size classes exploit different segments of the prey resource. Overall, species with a larger size range consumed a higher prey diversity. Prey occurrence was sampled throughout the study on a regular basis. The analysis of selectivity in feeding using Ivlev's index showed that the prey taxa that appeared to be preferred were generally rare in the environment. Detrended Correspondence Analysis revealed that the composition of anuran diets were highly overlapping but differed from the composition of the resource base. The trophic resource was highly partitioned in space and time and thus allowed the coexistence of large populations with similar diets.
Amphibians exhibit plasticity in the timing of metamorphosis, and tadpoles of many species respond to pond drying by accelerating their development. In the present study we investigated the phenotypic plasticity of the developmental response to water volume reduction in tadpoles of Eastern spadefoot toad Pelobates syriacus. The response of tadpoles to the simulated drying conditions was evaluated by gradually reducing the water level in the experimental containers under controlled laboratory conditions. Four water level treatments were used: constant high, slow decrease, fast decrease and constant low level. We tested if (i) tadpoles can speed up their development in a drying aquatic habitat, and (ii) if the accelerated development causes a reduced body size at metamorphosis. Our results showed that P. syriacus tadpoles were able to respond to pond drying by speeding up their metamorphosis and that metamorphosis was not influenced by water level, but by water level decrease rate. The accelerated development caused by the decreasing water level resulted in smaller body size at metamorphosis. The smallest size at metamorphosis was in tadpoles raised in constant low water level treatments and was probably induced by the crowding effect. We compared our results to similar studies which show that the response of the Eastern spadefoot toad tadpoles to pond drying is less impressive, especially if compared to the response of the North American spadefoot toads inhabiting desert environments.
Understanding how major life history traits such as body size and mass and growth change in response to resource availability is crucial in explaining life history trade-offs. We conducted a laboratory experiment with three (high, medium and low) feeding intensity treatments using metamorphs of two spadefoot toads species, Pelobates syriacus and P. fuscus, from syntopic populations. We tested how total food consumption, final body size and mass, body mass increase, body mass and length growth rates and growth efficiency are influenced by food availability. The responses to food availability differed significantly between the species with respect to the total food consumption, body mass increase, body mass growth rate and growth efficiency (i.e. the ratio between total amount of food consumed during the experiment divided by the increase in body mass). P. syriacus metamorphs had higher growth rates and growth efficiency than P. fuscus juveniles. Also, P. syriacus juveniles responded to differences in food level by increasing growth efficiency with decreasing food levels. Overall P. syriacus seems better adapted to shortages in food availability than P. fuscus. Our results clearly indicate that the differences in body size between the two species originate between metamorphosis and sexual maturity.
Body condition is important because it is correlated with population and habitat quality parameters. Since the direct measurements are either lethal or unreliable, a wide range of non-lethal body condition indices has been proposed. The aim of our study was to apply and compare three body condition indices (Fulton's index, relative body condition mass index and residual index) using body size indicator – body mass data for 24 populations of the yellow bellied toad (Bombina variegata). The condition index should be independent of body size indicator, in this case snout vent length (SVL). Therefore we tested all three indices for the statistical independence of SVL and for the normality of distribution. Fulton's index violated the independence assumption, whereas the relative body condition mass index did not have a normal distribution. Residual index was found both independent of SVL and normally distributed. Moreover, the residual index highlighted biological significant differences on the basis of altitude and season. Our results recommend the residual index as a useful tool in amphibian monitoring and conservation.