Abstract

Habitat disturbance can modify microhabitats and therefore have a significant effect on the abundance and distribution of anurans species, particularly those associated to specific microhabitats. In this study we evaluated changes in the use of microhabitat by two syntopic species of tree frogs, Agalychnis dacnicolor and Smilisca fodiens along a successional gradient of Tropical Dry Forest in the region of the Biosphere Reserve of Chamela-Cuixmala at the coast of Jalisco, Mexico. We hypothesized that because these two species are habitat generalists, microhabitat use would change in response to secondary forest succession and to the climatic season of the year. Although both species were registered in both secondary and mature forests, A. dacnicolor was associated to mature forest, whereas S. fodiens was more associated to disturbed sites. Neither species showed differences in biomass among successional stages (ES) or between climatic seasons. Unlike S. fodiens, A. dacnicolor presented larger sizes during the rainy season. Body temperature of both species varied between ES and climatic season. S. fodiens presented a more constant temperature among individuals in pastures, while A. dacnicolor in mature forests. Environmental and structural habitat variables that influenced the presence of both species in ES were substrate temperature, height of tree or shrub where the frog was perching and percentage cover of litter, grasses, shrubs, trees and bare soil. The variables that best explained biomass, snout-vent length (LHC) and body temperature of S. fodiens were cover of dry branches and substrate temperature, whereas biomass of A. dacnicolor was better explained by cover of herbs, LHC, height of the tree or shrub where the frog was perching, body temperature and the substrate temperature. Both species used differentially environmental and structural variables of microhabitats along the gradient of initial to late ES. The variables that separated the species were the height of the shelter or perch and the percentage of trees in different ES. Whereas A. dacnicolor was more associated to the lowest strata of vegetation, S. fodiens showed plasticity in microhabitat use, especially in height of shelter or perch. Our results suggested that even when both species are considered habitat generalists, in anthropic landscapes, A. dacnicolor is specialist in microhabitat use, whereas S. fodiens is a species with greater ecological plasticity in microhabitat use. These differences in microhabitat use in response to habitat disturbance may help explain the success of these species in these new landscapes, as well as the importance of secondary forests in different stages of succession to maintain adequate microhabitats for the permanence of species in anthropogenic landscapes.

Keywords: Hylidae, chronosequence, habitat features, secondary forest