The tonic immobility test: Do wild and captive golden mantella frogs (Mantella aurantiaca) have the same response?

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Abstract

Adaptations to captivity that reduce fitness are one of many reasons, which explain the low success rate of reintroductions. One way of testing this hypothesis is to compare an important behavioural response in captive and wild members of the same species. Thanatosis, is an anti-predator strategy that reduces the risk of death from predation, which is a common behavioral response in frogs. The study subjects for this investigation were captive and wild populations of Mantella aurantiaca. Thanatosis reaction was measured using the Tonic Immobility (TI) test, a method that consists of placing a frog on its back, restraining it in this position for a short period of time and then releasing it and measuring how much time was spent feigning death. To understand the pattern of reaction time, morphometric data were also collected as body condition can affect the duration of thanatosis. The significantly different TI times found in this study, one captive population with shorter responses, were principally an effect of body condition rather than being a result of rearing environment. However, this does not mean that we can always dismiss the importance of rearing environment in terms of behavioural skills expressed.

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Passos, L. F., Garcia, G., & Young, R. J. (2017). The tonic immobility test: Do wild and captive golden mantella frogs (Mantella aurantiaca) have the same response? PLoS ONE, 12(7). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0181972

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