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Predation on tadpoles by hatchlings of the freshwater turtle

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Experiments with Pelomedusa subrufa, a widespread African freshwater turtle, showed that this species consumed large quantities of tadpoles. Tadpoles preyed upon, comprised between 0.05 and 21.55% of the turtle's biomass. This demonstrated that Pelomedusa subrufa was neither gape limited nor did it ignore very small prey. Tadpoles with an ovoid body shape (Hemisus marmoratus, Hyperolius nitidulus, Ptychadena maccarthyensis), which shared, under natural conditions, the pond bottom microhabitat with the turtles, were more threatened than the robust tall-finned Kassina tadpoles that lived in the middle of the water column. The translucent, slow swimming Phrynomantis microps tadpole occurred in larger ponds and preferred the upper water column in deeper parts of the pond. This species was especially at risk in ponds with reduced water levels. Turtles, in contrast to fish or dragonfly larvae, are capable of migrating to other ponds. They therefore might have a profound regional influence on tadpole communities in ephemeral savanna ponds.

Affiliations: 1: Theodor-Boveri-Institut, Lehrstuhl für Tierökologie und Tropenbiologie, Am Hubland, D-97074 Würzburg, Germany, Email:


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