Trophic ecology of the Endangered Darwin's frog inferred by stable isotopes

Blanca E. Molina-Burgos, Andrés Valenzuela-Sánchez, Mario Alvarado-Rybak, Sebastián Klarian, Claudio Soto-Azat

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Darwin's frogs Rhinoderma spp. are the only known mouth-brooding frogs on Earth. The southern Darwin's frog, R. darwinii, is found in the temperate forests of southern South America, is listed as Endangered and could be the only extant representative of this genus. Based on stomach contents, invertebrate prey availability and stable isotope analysis, we determined for the first time trophic ecological parameters for this species. Our results showed that R. darwinii is a generalist sit-and-wait predator and a secondary consumer, with a trophic position of 2.9. Carbon and nitrogen isotope composition indicated that herbivore invertebrates are their main prey, detected in 68.1% of their assimilated food. The most consumed prey included mosquitoes, flies, crickets, grasshoppers and ants. Detritivore and carnivore invertebrates were also ingested, but in lower proportions. Our results contribute to a better understanding of the feeding habits of this fully terrestrial amphibian and provide the first insight into their role linking low forest trophic positions with intermediate predators. We provide valuable biological information for in situ and ex situ conservation which can be used when developing habitat protection, reintroduction and captive breeding programmes. As revealed here, stable isotope analysis is a valuable tool to study the trophic ecology of highly endangered and cryptic species.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)269-278
Number of pages10
JournalEndangered Species Research
Volume36
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2018

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Keywords

  • Amphibian
  • Chile
  • Conservation
  • Feeding ecology
  • Rhinoderma darwinii

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation

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