Temporal habitat shift of a polymorphic newt species under predation risk

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Abstract

The temporal partitioning hypothesis suggests that the evolution of different diel activity rhythms in animals might facilitate the coexistence between prey and predators. However, the temporal shift of habitat use induced by predation has rarely been observed. The study of such a mechanism is particularly relevant for introduced species because it might explain how native species can persist or decline in response to the presence of alien species. The introduction of fish into ponds inhabited by amphibians has severe consequences for their occurrence and abundance. Fish particularly affect an alternative newt phenotype, the paedomorph, which does not undergo metamorphosis and maintains larval traits such as gills at the adult stage. In a laboratory design, we assessed the diel patterns of habitat use in the 2 distinct morphological phenotypes of palmate newt (Lissotriton helveticus) in the presence or absence of goldfish (Carassius auratus). Both newt phenotypes avoided a risky habitat more in the presence than in the absence of fish. This habitat shift was more pronounced during the daytime (i.e., when the risk could be considered higher for the newts) than during nighttime. However, in contrast to metamorphs, paedomorphs showed less adaptive changes according to temporal risk and remained in their shelter for most of the time. Temporal and habitat partitioning at the diel scale between native and alien species might promote their coexistence, but diel change can also imply a cost in the overall reduction of the time allocated to essential activities, showing that species interactions remain complex.

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