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Biol Lett. Jun 23, 2010; 6(3): 308–310.
Published online Dec 9, 2009. doi:  10.1098/rsbl.2009.0798
PMCID: PMC2880039
Temporal learning of predation risk by embryonic amphibians
Maud C. O. Ferrari,* Aditya K. Manek, and Douglas P. Chivers
Department of Biology, University of Saskatchewan, 112 Science Place, Saskatoon, SK, Canada, S7N 5E2
*Author for correspondence (mcferrari/at/
Present address: Department of Environmental Science and Policy, University of California, Davis, One Shields Avenue, Davis, CA 95616, USA.
Received October 6, 2009; Accepted November 17, 2009.
For prey species that rely on learning to recognize their predators, natural selection should favour individuals able to learn as early as possible. The earliest point at which individuals can gather information about the identity of their potential predators is during the embryonic stage. Indeed, recent experiments have demonstrated that amphibians can learn to recognize predators prior to hatching. Here, we conditioned woodfrog embryos to recognize predatory salamander cues either in the morning or in the evening, and subsequently exposed the two-week-old tadpoles to salamander cues either in the morning or in the evening, and recorded the intensity of their antipredator behaviour. The data indicate that amphibians learn to recognize potential predators while still in the egg, and also learn the temporal component of this information, which they use later in life, to adjust the intensity of their antipredator responses throughout the day.
Keywords: predator recognition, temporal learning, embryonic learning
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