Amazon poison frogs (Ranitomeya amazonica) use different phytotelm characteristics to determine their suitablility for egg and tadpole deposition

Poelman, E.H.; Wijngaarden, R.P.A. van; Raaijmakers, C.E.


Parents have to assess the multivariate characteristics of their reproductive sites to maximize their reproductive success through offspring performance. In addition, they may provide care to ensure optimal performance of their offspring. In poison frogs it has been identified that ecological characteristics of reproductive sites may underlie transitions in the involvement of parental sexes in care for offspring. To elucidate the ecological factors that may drive these transitions, it is important to understand which characteristics poison frogs use to assess the quality of their reproductive site. We studied the use of small water bodies in leaf axils of bromeliads, phytotelmata, for egg and tadpole deposition by Amazon poison frogs (Ranitomeya amazonica). We compared phytotelm quality characteristics for preferred egg and tadpole deposition sites and used two choice tests with plastic cups to study the causal relationship with tadpole deposition for the identified characteristics. The differences among quality characteristics of deposition sites were largest among bromeliad species, and for egg or tadpole deposition different bromeliad species were preferred. However, males were also selective in the leaf axils within a bromeliad species that they used for egg or tadpole deposition. Eggs were deposited in small, resource limited water bodies that were close to the forest floor. Tadpoles were deposited in leaf axils holding resource-rich phytotelmata with larger water volumes. Preference of detritus containing water over clear water in choice tests confirmed that Amazon poison frogs assess quality of their tadpole deposition sites on food availability. We conclude that preference for large water volume and resource rich phytotelmata plays an important role in determining male involvement in parental care and speculate that distribution of preferred resources may bring about selection on female involvement in parental care.