Impacts of Paternal Care and Seasonal Change on Offspring Survival: A Multiseason Experimental Study of a Caribbean Frog

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Parental care is widespread among animals and many studies have investigated how environmental conditions influence parental care strategies. However, few studies have coupled observations of the frequency and form of parental care with manipulative studies on the function of care across multiple seasons. To address this gap, we made field observations and conducted male removal experiments in a glass frog with paternal egg attendance from the island of Tobago, West Indies. To test the hypothesis that seasonality impacts the frequency, form, and function of parental care, field observations and male removal experiments were undertaken three times, twice during the rainy season, and once in the dry season. We found seasonal differences in the frequency of egg attendance with males increasing the frequency of this behavior in the dry season, likely in response to a greater risk of clutch desiccation. We also found that clutches in which the male was removed had strongly reduced survivorship compared with controls and this pattern did not change seasonally. However, sources of mortality were strongly influenced by season. Arthropod predation was the primary source of mortality during the wet season, but in the dry season, desiccation was more important. Together, these results suggest that seasonal variation is both impacting care function as well as shaping the form that parental care takes.

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