Playing with food: Detection of prey injury cues stimulates increased functional foraging traits in Xenopus laevis

  • Josie South
  • Tarryn L. Botha
  • Nico J. Wolmarans
  • Victor Wepener
  • Olaf L.F. Weyl
Keywords: amphibian, behaviour, infochemical, kairomone, predation


Animal behavioural traits determine trophic interaction strength, which in turn structures ecological communities. Behavioural responses to prey cues can inform upon how prey are perceived and detected and therefore determine whether certain stimuli can increase or dampen predatory efficiency and therefore community structuring. We examined the functional foraging traits of an amphibian predator Xenopus laevis on mosquito larvae (Culex sp.), with regard to responses towards different prey cues. We assessed a suite of foraging behaviours exhibited when supplied with three abundances of live prey (2, 4 and 20); non-injury prey cues; prey injury kairomones from mechanically damaged prey in order to determine the importance of cues in stimulating foraging. High abundance of live prey caused frogs to visit the top of the arena significantly more than in the other treatments. This suggests that hydromechanical and visual cues alert X. laevis to prey items in different spatial zones, which results in foraging where the prey have aggregated, while the non-injury prey cue resulted in a decrease in foraging behaviours. The injury kairomone cue elicited a significantly farther distance travelled, and similar responses in terms of velocity of movement and duration of time spent moving when supplied with 20 live prey items. Previous work on X. laevis predation has focused on prey detection via lateral line sensitivity, however, the strength of response elicited by the prey injury kairomone treatment indicates that there are also complex olfactory pathways involved in detecting prey items. This is possibly related to abiotic context (i.e. turbid ponds) and high predator density in the wild.

Keywords: amphibian, behaviour, infochemical, kairomone, predation


Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 2224-073X
print ISSN: 1562-7020