Wasps Drive Frog Eggs to (Escape) Hatch

By Milius, S. | Science News, October 14, 2000 | Go to article overview

Wasps Drive Frog Eggs to (Escape) Hatch


Milius, S., Science News


Tree frog embryos plop out of their eggs in moments of danger, and now a researcher has found that their responses are proportional to the threat.

That an embryo can respond at all to predators represents a recent rethinking of the powers of eggdom. One of the first pushes for this view came from studies of red-eyed tree frogs (Agalychnis callidryas), which lay their eggs in plants dangling over water. In 1995, Karen Warkentin, now of the University of Kentucky in Lexington, reported that a snake attack can prompt a whole clutch of the embryos to pop out of their eggs early.

"It's dramatic," says Warkentin. "An egg can hatch in a second. You have eggs hatching and larvae jumping out of the corner of the snake's mouth."

Now, she's presenting a more sophisticated embryo strategy. If a wasp attacks an egg a day or two before normal hatching, only that embryo and perhaps near neighbors usually try a quick escape, Warkentin reports in the October ANIMAL BEHAVIOR. The small-scale response makes sense, she argues. Wasps take only one embryo away at each visit, but a snake can quickly devour a clutch.

In an earlier study, Andrew Sih, also of the University of Kentucky, found the reverse response--a hatching delay--in streamside salamander eggs exposed to chemical traces of predatory sunfish or marauding gangs of flatworms. …

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