Journal of Tropical Ecology

Niche occupancy in south-eastern Brazilian tadpole communities in montane-meadow streams

Paula Cabral Eterovick a1c1 and Isalita Souza Barros a1
a1 Departamento de Biologia Geral, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, 30161-970 Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, Brasil


Microhabitat use by tadpole species was investigated in streams of montane meadows of the Serra do Cipó, south-eastern Brazil. Microhabitats were classified into 24 types based on water depth, current, aquatic vegetation and substrate type, and quantified in 16 streams. A total of 844 tadpoles from 19 species was recorded, as well as microhabitat types used. Tadpoles, from all species pooled, used microhabitat types in the proportions available in the set of sampled streams. Diversity of microhabitats used was considered as a measure of niche breadth for tadpoles, and microhabitat diversity in streams was interpreted as available niche space. For the most part, species used microhabitats in different proportions, and conspecifics differed in microhabitat use among different streams. Neither niche breadths nor niche overlaps of tadpoles could be related to the number of species occupying streams. Thus not all available niche space may be occupied by tadpole species. More generalist species (those with broader niches) did not generally occupy more streams. Behavioural flexibility of tadpoles in microhabitat use may be a response to the unpredictability of the montane-meadow stream habitat. The role of adult anurans in choosing oviposition sites may also influence the distribution of tadpole species among streams.

(Accepted August 13 2002)

Key Words: Anura; behavioural flexibility; habitat unpredictability; microhabitat use; niche occupancy; spatial distribution; tadpoles.

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