Changes in behavior are often the proximate response of animals to human disturbance, with variability in tolerance levels leading some species to exhibit striking shifts in life history, fitness, and/or survival. Thus, elucidating the effects of disturbance on animal behavior, and how this varies among taxonomically similar species with inherently different behaviors and life histories is of value for management and conservation. We evaluated the risk response of three anuran species—southern leopard frog (Lithobates sphenocephalus), Blanchard’s cricket frog (Acris blanchardi), and green tree frog (Hyla cinerea)—to determine how differences in microhabitat use (arboreal vs ground-dwelling) and body size (small vs medium) may play a role in response to a potential threat within a human-altered subtropical forest. Each species responded to risk with both flight and freeze behaviors, however, behaviors were species- and context-specific. As distance to cover increased, southern leopard frogs increased freezing behavior, green tree frogs decreased freezing behavior, and Blanchard’s cricket frogs increased flight response. The propensity of green tree frogs to use the canopy of vegetation as refugia, and the small body size of Blanchard’s cricket frogs likely led to greater flight response as distance to cover increased, whereas innate reliance on camouflage among southern leopard frogs may place them at greater risk to landscaping, agricultural, and transportation practices in open terrain. As such, arboreal and small-bodied species may inherently be better suited in human altered-landscapes compared to larger, ground-dwelling species. As land-use change continues to modify habitats, understanding how species respond to changes in their environment continues to be of importance, particularly in ecosystems where human-wildlife interactions are expected to increase in frequency.
Matich, Philip and Schalk, Christopher M., "Move it or lose it: interspecific variation in risk response of pond-breeding anurans" (2019). Faculty Publications. 476.
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