We examined 142 papers, which contained 603 separate predator-prey trials, to investigate whether unpalatability is an important defense against predation for amphibian eggs and larvae. Although unpalatability is often cited as an antipredator defense, it was rarely demonstrated that 89% of the trials that we reviewed found prey to be palatable. The most extensively studied taxa, the genera Bufo and Rana, were diagnosed unpalatable at rates comparable to all other taxa. Diagnoses of unpalatability were not always consistent for a prey species across different predators and were influenced by experimental method. Despite these limitations and our conservative definition of unpalatability, several patterns emerged. First, across all taxonomic groups, eggs and hatchlings were unpalatable more often than mobile larval stages. Second, species that breed in temporary ponds were more likely to be palatable to fish predators than those that breed in permanent habitats. Third, fish and caudates were more likely to find amphibian prey unpalatable than insect predators. We conclude that unpalatability is rare, but when it occurs, it is a property of an ensemble (predator, prey, and alternative prey) and a life-history stage in a particular circumstance but is not a species-specific attribute. We suggest methods of experimentation that could strengthen future research on the palatability of amphibian eggs and larvae.
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