I studied the invasion of Rana catesbeiana (the bullfrog) into a northern California river system where bullfrogs are not native. Native yellow-legged frogs, Rana boylii, a species of special concern, were almost an order of magnitude less abundant in reaches where bullfrogs were well established. I assessed the potential role of larval competition in contributing to this displacement in a series of field manipulations of tadpole density and species composition. The impact of R. catesbeiana on native tadpoles in the natural community agreed with the outcome of more artificial experiments testing pairwise and three-way interactions. In 2-m 2 enclosures with ambient densities of tadpoles and natural river biota, bullfrog tadpoles caused a 48%% reduction in survivorship of R. boylii, and a 24%% decline in mass at metamorphosis. Bullfrog larvae had smaller impacts on Pacific treefrogs, Hyla regilla, causing 16%% reduction in metamorph size, and no significant effect on survivorship. Bullfrog tadpoles significantly affected benthic algae, although effects varied across sites. Responses to bullfrogs in field settings were similar qualitatively to results seen in smaller-scale experiments designed to study size-structured competition among disparate age/size classes of species pairs and trios. Competition from large overwintering bullfrog larvae significantly decreased survivorship and growth of native tadpoles. Competition from recently hatched bullfrog larvae also decreased survivorship of R. boylii and H. regilla. Native species competed weakly, both interspecifically and intraspecifically. The only suggestion of a negative impact of a native species on bullfrogs was a weak effect of H. regilla on recent hatchlings. Competition appeared to be mediated by algal resources, and there was no evidence for behavioral or chemical interference. These results indicate that, through larval interactions, bullfrogs can exert differential effects on native frogs and perturb aquatic community structure.
Ecology – Ecological Society of America
Published: Sep 1, 1997
Keywords: algae ; biological invasions ; California ; grazing ; Hyla regilla ; Rana boylii ; Rana catesbeiana ; rivers ; size-structured competition
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