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PeerJ 2024 Jan 01;12:e17307. doi: 10.7717/peerj.17307.
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Feral frogs, native newts, and chemical cues: identifying threats from and management opportunities for invasive African Clawed Frogs in Washington state.

Anderson D , Cervantez O , Bucciarelli GM , Lambert MR , Friesen MR .

Invasive species threaten biodiversity globally. Amphibians are one of the most threatened vertebrate taxa and are particularly sensitive to invasive species, including other amphibians. African clawed frogs (Xenopus laevis) are native to Southern Africa but have subsequently become invasive on multiple continents-including multiple parts of North America-due to releases from the pet and biomedical trades. Despite their prevalence as a global invader, the impact of X. laevis remains understudied. This includes the Pacific Northwest of the USA, which now hosts multiple expanding X. laevis populations. For many amphibians, chemical cues communicate important information, including the presence of predators. Here, we tested the role chemical cues may play in mediating interactions between feral X. laevis and native amphibians in the Pacific Northwest. We tested whether native red-legged frog (Rana aurora) tadpoles display an antipredator response to non-native frog (X. laevis) or native newt (rough-skinned newts, Taricha granulosa) predator chemical stimuli. We found that R. aurora tadpoles exhibited pronounced anti-predator responses when exposed to chemical cues from T. granulosa but did not display anti-predator response to invasive X. laevis chemical cues. We also began experimentally testing whether T. granulosa-which produce a powerful neurotoxin tetrodotoxin (TTX)-may elicit an anti-predator response in X. laevis, that could serve to deter co-occupation. However, our short-duration experiments found that X. laevis were attracted to newt chemical stimuli rather than deterred. Our findings show that X. laevis likely poses a threat to native amphibians, and that these native species may also be particularly vulnerable to this invasive predator, compared to native predators, because toxic native newts may not limit X. laevis invasions. Our research provides some of the first indications that native Pacific Northwest species may be threatened by feral X. laevis and provides a foundation for future experiments testing potential management techniques for X. laevis.

PubMed ID: 38742097
Article link: PeerJ