Can an invasive prey species induce morphological changes in an endemic predator? Evidence from a South Korean snake (Oocatochus rufudorsatus)

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Asian Herpetological Research

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Zhongguo Kexueyuan Chengdu Shengwu Yanjiusuo


invasive prey, bullfrog, Rana catesbeiana, Oocatochus rufodorsatus, predator response


Introduction of an invasive prey species into an ecosystem may affect an endemic predator’s fitness by altering the prey-predator system. Successful adaptation may allow the endemic predator to eat and control the invasive species, while unsuccessful adaptation may result in extinction of the predator. We examine the possible effects of the invasive North American bullfrog (Rana [Lithobates] catesbeiana) on the endemic Red-backed rat snake (Oocatochus rufodorsatus) in South Korea. We do so by comparing the morphology and behavior of adult and hatchling snakes from bullfrog-exposed (Taean) and bullfrog-unexposed (Hongcheon) populations. Among the seven morphological characteristics investigated, relative tail length (tail length/snout-vent length) of both adults and hatchlings from Taean was significantly greater than that of adults and hatchlings from Hongcheon. Also, adult snakes from Taean had a significantly shorter latency of first tongue flick in response to prey compared to adults from Hongcheon. This difference was not observed in hatchlings. In other snake species, a longer relative tail length and shorter latency of first tongue flick are known to improve foraging efficiency, and these characters may be adaptations of O. rufodorsatus to prey on bullfrogs. This study provides preliminary evidence that the presence of an invasive prey species may cause morphological and behavioral changes in an endemic predator.



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Heo, J.-H., Lee, H.-J., Kim, I.-H., Fong, J. J., Kim, J.-K., Jeong, S., & Park, D. (2014). Can an invasive prey species induce morphological changes in an endemic predator? Evidence from a South Korean snake (Oocatochus rufudorsatus). Asian Herpetological Research, 5(4), 245-254. doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1245.2014.00245