Juvenile amphibians are capable of long-distance upland movements, yet cues used for orientation during upland movements are poorly understood. We used newly metamorphosed Wood Frogs (Lithobates sylvaticus) to investigate: (1) the existence of innate (i.e., inherited) directionality, and (2) the use of olfactory cues, specifically forested wetland and natal pond cues during emigration. In a circular arena experiment, animals with assumed innate directionality did not orient in the expected direction (suggested by previous studies) when deprived of visual and olfactory cues. This suggests that juvenile Wood Frogs most likely rely on proximate cues for orientation. Animals reared in semi-natural conditions (1500 l cattle tanks) showed a strong avoidance of forested wetland cues in two different experimental settings, although they had not been previously exposed to such cues. This finding is contrary to known habitat use by adult Wood Frogs during summer. Juvenile Wood Frogs were indifferent to the chemical signature of natal pond (cattle tank) water. Our findings suggest that management strategies for forest amphibians should consider key habitat features that potentially influence the orientation of juveniles during emigration movements, as well as adult behavior.
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Vol. 2012 • No. 3