Determinants of conditioned prey avoidance in the fire-bellied toad, Bombina orientalis

Brown, Matthew
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University of Guelph

Conditioned prey avoidance (CPA) is a behaviour that prevents the consumption of harmful prey. It occurs when a novel prey is paired with an aversive event. Previous behavioural studies in amphibians have presented conflicting evidence surrounding the ability of amphibians to conduct CPA. This study evaluated the ability of the fire-bellied toad (Bombina orientalis) to display a CPA and investigated three competing hypotheses (avoidance intensity, sex and body size) to determine what factors could predict CPA. During this study, toads learned to avoid mealworms a week after pairing this novel prey with the emetic substance copper sulfate. This behavioural response was specific to mealworms since usual cricket prey was consumed readily at testing time. The results show that avoidance behaviour intensity was an important predictor of CPA, whereas sex and body size had no influence. Therefore, fire-bellied toads possess similar capacities for CPA as demonstrated in other vertebrates.

Conditioned avoidance behaviour, amphibians, Learning, Emesis, Avoidance intensity, Sex, Body size