How far do tadpoles travel in the rainforest? Parent-assisted dispersal in poison frogs.

  • August 15, 2019
  • by Pašukonis, A., Loretto, M. C., & Rojas, B.

Parents can influence offspring dispersal through breeding site selection, competition, or by directly moving their offspring during parental care. Many animals move their young, but the potential role of this behavior in dispersal has rarely been investigated. Neotropical poison frogs (Dendrobatidae) are well known for shuttling their tadpoles from land to water, but the associated movements have rarely been quantified and the potential function of tadpole transport in dispersal has not been addressed. We used miniature radio-transmitters to track the movements of two poison frog species during tadpole transport, and surveyed pool availability in the study area. We found that parental males move farther than expected by the distance to the nearest pool and spread their offspring across multiple pools. We argue that these movement patterns cannot be fully explained by pool quality and availability, and suggest that adaptive benefits related to offspring dispersal also shape the spatial behavior of parental frogs.