Escape-hatching responses of individual treefrog embryos vary with threat level in wasp attacks: a mechanistic analysis

<p>Theory predicts that prey behavioural responses should reflect the level of risk posed by predators. We investigated how red-eyed treefrog embryos perceive and respond to spatially variable risk during wasp attacks on their clutches. First, we spatially restricted wasp activity on clutches and compared hatching of wasp-exposed, adjacent, and protected embryos. Hatching occurred in all zones but increased with exposure, being highest in directly exposed embryos. Second, we videotaped wasps attacking clutches and compared the experiences of embryos that hatched first and those that did not hatch until later. Embryos that hatched first experienced more predatory wasp activity directed at themselves or at siblings within a 2-egg radius. Models predicting hatching indicate that cues used to assess risk originate from the behaviour of wasps, rather than other embryos. This research demonstrates that embryos can integrate information about predator behaviour and proximity to respond appropriately based on their level of risk.</p>