Testing the effect of dietary carotenoids on larval survival, growth and development in the critically endangered southern corroboree frog
The success of captive breeding programs (CBPs) for threatened species is often limited due to a lack of knowledge of the nutritional conditions required for optimal growth and survival. Carotenoids are powerful antioxidants known to accelerate vertebrate growth and reduce mortality. However, the effect of carotenoids on amphibian life-history traits remains poorly understood. The aim of our study was to use a manipulative laboratory experiment to test the effect of dietary-carotenoid supplementation during the larval life stage on the survival, growth and development of the critically endangered southern corroboree frog (Pseudophryne corroboree). Larvae were fed either a carotenoid supplemented diet or an unsupplemented diet and the survival, growth and development of individuals was monitored and compared. There was no significant effect of dietary treatment on larval survival, growth rate, time taken to reach metamorphosis, or body size at metamorphosis. Our findings provide no evidence that carotenoid supplementation during the larval life stage improves the growth and development of southern corroboree frogs. However, because the carotenoid dose used in our study did not have any detrimental effects on P. corroboree larvae, but has previously been shown to improve adult coloration, immunity, and exercise performance, carotenoid supplementation should be considered when evaluating the nutritional requirements of P. corroboree in captivity. Carotenoid supplementation studies are now required for a diversity of anuran species to determine the effects of carotenoids on amphibian survival, growth and development. Understanding the effects of dietary carotenoids on different life-history traits may assist with amphibian captive breeding and conservation.