Reproductive site selection in a bromeliad breeding treefrog
Reproductive site selection is a key determinant of fitness in many taxa. However, if the site characteristics that enhance offspring survival are detrimental to the parent’s survival or mating success, then complex evolutionary trade-offs occur. In the Brazilian Atlantic Forest, males of the treefrog species Aparasphenodon arapapa use the temporary water bodies in forest-floor bromeliads to court and mate. Males fit tightly into the plant with the head blocking the access and after mating, stay in the bromeliad with the offspring. Since evaporation of the temporary water body inside the bromeliad results in reproductive failure, we expected that males would simply choose the largest bromeliad tanks with the most water. We found that although this was generally true, males seemed to avoid both very large bromeliads and very high water volumes. Field observations suggested a trade-off mechanism for this pattern, whereby very large and water-filled tanks would reduce the male’s ability to effectively seal the tank entrance, avoid predation, or call to mating females. Males also avoided bromeliads with leaf litter and preferred slightly inclined plants. Our results indicate that during reproductive site selection, this bromeliad-breeder needs to engage in complex trade-offs between selection pressures, balancing water requirements against the need for defense and potentially, the ability to attract a mate.