A test of the risk allocation hypothesis: tadpole responses to temporal change in predation risk
The risk allocation hypothesis predicts that temporal variation in predation risk can influence how animals allocate feeding behavior among situations that differ in danger. We tested the risk allocation model with tadpoles of the frog Rana lessonae, which satisfy the main assumptions of this model because they must feed to reach metamorphosis within a single season, their behavioral defense against predators is costly, and they can respond to changes in risk integrated over time. Our experiment switched tadpoles between artificial ponds with different numbers of caged dragonfly larvae and held them at high and low risk for different portions of their lives. Tadpoles responded strongly to predators, but they did not obey the risk allocation hypothesis: as the high-risk environment became more dangerous, there was no tendency for tadpoles to allocate more feeding to the low-risk environment, and as tadpoles spent more time at risk, they did not increase feeding in both environments. Our results suggest that the model might be more applicable when the time spent under high predation risk is large relative to the time required to collect resources.