Ants biting amphibians: a review and new observations

Abstract

Antagonistic interactions between insects and amphibians are the subject of many scientific articles, mostly concerning amphibian predation on insect, but many fewer examples exist of the opposite situation. In this article we review available information from the literature and add our own observations collected during amphibian pitfall trap monitoring in 2012–2016 in Western Poland, as well as discuss potential conservation implications of observed behavior. We identified a total of 29 cases involving 94 individual ants attacking four species of Anura, Rana temporaria, Pelophylax esculentus complex, Bufo bufo, and Pelobates fuscus, and biting their back, cloaca, armpits, or hind legs. Bites were inflicted by three ant species: Myrmica rubra, Lasius fuliginosus, and Formica polyctena. The number of ants found on an amphibian was positively and significantly correlated with its body length. To date, direct damage by ants on amphibians was reported mainly from the tropics in general predation accident. However, as we document here, it is probably a more common phenomenon, especially in some ecological traps or during pitfall trapping, which is a common method to mitigate road mortality of frogs and toads.

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