Publication details

Preliminary results indicate localized adaptation in the duration of unken reflex in fire-bellied toads (Bombina bombina, Bombinatoridae)



Year of publication 2023
Type Conference abstract
Description The unken reflex (UR) is a deimatic display found in certain species of toads, such as the Fire-bellied toads (Bombina bombina). These toads are cryptically coloured dorsally; however, when threatened, they arch their backs and raise their limbs, exposing the brightly coloured undersides. This sudden appearance of bright colour is a startling effect and warns potential predators that the toad is poisonous. As an antipredator behaviour, UR should be under selection and adapt to different types of predators/predation pressure. We examined the duration of UR in three populations of European fire-bellied toads. We gently tapped and grabbed them with rubber forceps to entice the toads to perform UR. We noted the occurrence of UR, whether the toads entered UR from being tapped or grabbed and if UR was displayed, we measured how long it took for the toads to exit UR (straighten their backs and drop their extremities). In total, we processed 106 toads. Our results indicate no significant differences in the occurrence of UR between the localities. On the other hand, our results indicate significant differences in the duration of UR between the localities. Coincidentally , in the locality where UR lasted the longest, the toads entered UR significantly more often from grabbing than tapping. This locality is in a canal in an urban environment devoid of a diversity of predators save domestic cats and dogs. The other localities are open, naturally occurring wetlands home to different species of snakes, water birds and small mammals. Our results might highlight localized adaptations to different predators/predation pressure and merit further attention. Future studies of UR should include attributes such as ventral colour, pattern and contrast, as these traits are also likely to be crucial predictors of the occurrence and duration of deimatic displays.
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