Ecology & Evolution Seminar Series 2017 - Patty Ramirez
Behavioural patterns of two native Leiopelma frogs and implications for their conservation
Amphibian populations are in general decline and their current situation highlights the need for comprehensive information on species’ ecology to better assess conservation strategies. Movement behaviour and microhabitat selection give insights into how amphibians use the environment and interact with their surroundings, and are essential to establishing their sensitivity to the global decline phenomenon. New Zealand native frogs (Leiopelma spp) are classified as threatened, creating an urgent need for species-specific behavioural research to support
conservation management. In my PhD I investigated the activity, movement behaviour and microhabitat use of L. archeyi and L. pakeka in their natural habitats by using a fine-scale tracking technique. I also examined whether introduced predators (ship rats) could affect the behaviour of L. archeyi using long-term frog survey data. L. archeyi had a longer activity period than L. pakeka, but L. pakeka moved more and further than L. archeyi during their activity periods. Additionally, L. archeyi had a smaller home range compared to L. pakeka. Both species sought out specific microhabitats among the ones that were available, but those microhabitat types also differed between species. L. pakeka retreat sites had lower and more stable temperatures than outside retreats and no evidence of sleep behaviour was detected. Lastly, in areas without rat control L. archeyi modified their microhabitat use being found above ground level more often than in rat control areas. My findings inform on the ecology and behaviour of two Leiopelma species providing valuable information on their habitat requirements, which will enable more effective captive husbandry and better assessment of the appropriateness of translocation sites, aiding in their conservation management.