Phenotypic plasticity, such as morphological and behavioral changes in response to predators, is common in larval anurans. Less is known about inducible defenses in the embryonic stages of development. We investigated the predation risk imposed by crayfish (Procambarus nigrocinctus) on southern leopard frog (Rana sphenocephala) eggs and whether crayfish presence induces a change in the timing of hatching of R. sphenocephala eggs. We found that crayfish significantly reduce the hatching success of R. sphenocephala eggs by eating them and that eggs hatch significantly faster in the presence of crayfish than when crayfish are not present. We also found that the nonlethal presence of crayfish (caged with no access to eggs) induced accelerated hatching, indicating that injured conspecifics are not required to elicit the response. Reception of chemical cues produced or released by crayfish may play an important role in survival of R. sphenocephala eggs.
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Vol. 2003 • No. 3