Individual-level diet variation in four species of Brazilian frogs


1 Many natural populations exploiting a wide range of resources are actually composed of relatively specialized individuals. 2 This interindividual variation is thought to be a consequence of the invasion of ‘empty’ niches in depauperate communities, generally in temperate regions. If individual niches are constrained by functional trade‐offs, the expansion of the population niche is only achieved by an increase in interindividual variation, consistent with the ‘niche variation hypothesis’. 3 According to this hypothesis, we should not expect interindividual variation in species belonging to highly diverse, packed communities. 4 In the present study, we measured the degree of interindividual diet variation in four species of frogs of the highly diverse Brazilian Cerrado, using both gut contents and δ13C stable isotopes. 5 We found evidence of significant diet variation in the four species, indicating that this phenomenon is not restricted to depauperate communities in temperate regions. 6 The lack of correlations between the frogs’ morphology and diet indicate that trade‐offs do not depend on the morphological characters measured here and are probably not biomechanical. The nature of the trade‐offs remains unknown, but are likely to be cognitive or physiological. 7 Finally, we found a positive correlation between the population niche width and the degree of diet variation, but a null model showed that this correlation can be generated by individuals sampling randomly from a common set of resources. Therefore, albeit consistent with, our results cannot be taken as evidence in favour of the niche variation hypothesis.

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