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

Jun Haeng HEO, Heon Joo LEE, Il Hun KIM, Jonathan, Julio FONG, Ja Kyeong KIM, Sumin JEONG, Daesik PARK

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)

2 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

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.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)245-254
Number of pages10
JournalAsian Herpetological Research
Volume5
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 25 Dec 2014
Externally publishedYes

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Keywords

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

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