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Tagging tadpoles: retention rates and impacts of visible implant elastomer (VIE) tags from the larval to adult amphibian stages

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Population demographics for amphibian larvae are rarely estimated due to marking technique limitations on small body size, morphological change (metamorphosis), and the associated habitat changes (aquatic to terrestrial environments). A technique that may meet some of these limitations is visible implant elastomer (VIE) tagging. In this study, we report on the efficacy of VIE tagging a tree frog (Hylidae) at the tadpole stage for cohort identification across metamorphosis to the adult stage, in a field environment. During our preliminary captive trial, post-metamorphosis tag retention was 100% over three months, with no adverse effects observed on survival, growth or time to metamorphosis. During our field study tag retention in recaptured Litoria aurea was 95% for tadpoles and 88% across metamorphosis. By 200 days post-tagging, retention declined to 75% in the adult stage and stabilised around 50% by 300 days. Post metamorphosis the retention rate was less reliable and dependent upon sex and life-stage. Females showed the highest retention rate (max. 62%, 760 days post tagging), followed by juveniles (max. 45%, 400 days post tagging) and males (max. 20%, 760 days post tagging). We conclude that VIE tagging is a viable method for studying cohort larval movements and population demographics of amphibians up to a 50 day post-metamorphosis stage.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: July 1, 2015

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