Intrapopulation diet variation in four frogs (Leptodactylidae) of the Brazilian Savannah


Age and sex-based as well as individual-level diet variation are known to occur in many natural populations, and may have important ecological and evolutionary implications. In the case of individual-level diet variation, most examples come from species-poor, temperate communities, and it is currently believed that it results from population niche expansion following interspecific competitive release. We investigated and measured the intrapopulation diet variation in four species of frogs, Leptodactylus ( = Adenomera) sp., Eleutherodactylus cf. juipoca, L. fuscus, and Proceratophrys sp., that are part of species-rich frog communities of the Brazilian Cerrado. Specifically, we investigated age and sex-related, as well as individual-level, diet variation. We measured individual-level diet variation with the IS index of individual specialization, which is a measure of the degree of overlap between individual niches and the population niches. We found no ontogenetic shifts or sex-related differences in the types of prey consumed. However, we found evidence of individual-level diet variation in the four studied species (IS ˜ 0.2–0.5). There was a negative correlation between IS and the population niche width (r  =  –0.980; P < 0.0001), indicating that interindividual diet variation is more pronounced in more generalized populations. This pattern suggests that individual niche widths remain constrained even when population niche breadth is wide, consistent with the presence of functional trade-offs. We found no evidence that these trade-offs arise from morphology, since there was no diet–morphology correlation. We hypothesize that trade-offs have a behavioral or physiological basis, which needs further investigation. This is the first documented case of individual-level diet variation in a diverse tropical community, indicating that this phenomenon is not restricted to competitive release-driven niche expansion in temperate, depauperate communities.

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