Chemical communication in green and golden bell frogs: do tadpoles respond to chemical cues from dead conspecifics?

Lígia Pizzatto*, Michelle Stockwell, Simon Clulow, John Clulow, Michael Mahony

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Captive bred animals often lack the ability of predator recognition and predation is one of the strongest causes of failure of breed and release projects. Several tadpole and fish species respond defensively to chemical cues from injured or dead conspecifics, often referred to as alarm pheromones. In natural conditions and in species that school, the association of chemical cues from predators to alarm pheromones released by attacked conspecifics may lead to the learning of the predator-related danger without experiencing an attack. In the laboratory, this chemical communication can also be used in associative learning techniques to teach naïve tadpoles to avoid specific predators and improve survivorship of released animals. In our experimental trials, tadpoles of the threatened green and golden bell frog (Litoria aurea) did not avoid or decrease their activity when exposed to solutions of conspecific macerate, suggesting that the chemicals released into the water by dead/injured conspecifics do not function as an alarm pheromone. This non-avoidance of dead conspecific chemicals may explain why green and golden bell frog tadpoles have seemingly not developed any avoidance behaviour to the presence of introduced mosquito fish, and may render attempts to teach naïve tadpoles to avoid this novel predator more difficult.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)171-177
Number of pages7
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • amphibia
  • alarm pheromone
  • chemical cues
  • endangered species
  • Liotoria aurea
  • tadpole


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