Refining the activity level-predation risk paradigm in larval anuran communities
The activity level-predation risk paradigm of community assembly is based on observable trade-offs between activity level and predation risk. Many species that live in ephemeral habitats are relatively more active, grow faster, and metamorphose sooner than those in more permanent habitats, thus enabling them to survive by escaping drying ponds. Species with high activity levels are shown to be superior competitors in temporary ponds, but are at greater risk of predation by visually cued predators. We take a comprehensive approach to testing if the activity-predation paradigm drives community assembly of a four-species guild of larval anurans through field surveys and a series of laboratory experiments quantifying their activity level, anti-predatory responses, swim performance, and escape behavior. Activity level was a good predictor of susceptibility to predation and habitat association for most species in our study, but not all species fit the pattern. Secondary anti-predator mechanisms contributed to differences in susceptibility to predation. Some species were more capable of avoiding predation through swim performance and escape behavior, thus allowing them to occupy a greater range of the water permanency continuum than was predicted by activity level alone. Because performance traits are deeply rooted, evolutionary history plays a major role in determining tadpole performance and life-history traits. Whole-organism performance traits (e.g., swim performance, escape behavior) have not generally been considered in the classic activity-predation paradigm. Our results show that accounting for individual and species-level performance reveals the understudied, yet important role of speciesspecific performance traits in disentangling the mechanisms driving community assembly.