Lifetime breeding-site and nest-site fidelity in a declining terrestrial toadlet: evidence for a win-stay/lose-shift strategy

Publication Name

Frontiers in Conservation Science


Introduction: Breeding-site fidelity can occur at various spatial scales and can vary in strength across these scales. Understanding this variation, and rules governing individual site-fidelity decisions, can have important implications for the conservation and management of threatened species. Globally, amphibians are in rapid decline and breeding-site fidelity appears to be widespread, yet few studies have investigated patterns of lifetime breeding-site fidelity, and no studies have explored decision-making rules in situ. Methods: We investigated lifetime patterns of breeding site fidelity in the brown toadlet Pseudophryne bibronii, a species displaying population declines and local extinction throughout its range. We monitored a single population for a period spanning 10 years to establish the extent that males express site fidelity at the scale of the breeding site and the breeding patch. We also examined male nest-site fidelity between breeding years in relation to mating success to examine if toadlets follow a Win-stay/Lose shift strategy. Results: Overall, we found that males displayed extreme lifetime fidelity to specific breeding patches within the breeding site, but that males regularly moved nest-site locations between breeding years. The degree of nest-site fidelity was related to male-mating success, whereby successful males established nests closer to a previous years’ nest location than unsuccessful males. Discussion: Our findings suggest that brown toadlets display extreme site fidelity at the scale of the breeding patch, but that within patches male nesting decisions are flexible and follow a win-stay/lose-shift strategy. These results provide novel evidence that breeding site fidelity in amphibians can vary depending on spatial scale (indicative of scale-dependent information use) and that a rule-based learning strategy can influence the degree of nest-site fidelity. Breeding patch fidelity and capacity for spatial learning may be widespread in long-lived amphibians and necessitate in situ conservation strategies that protect known breeding patches (and adjacent habitat) whilst enabling unconstrained localised movement.

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Funding Sponsor

Australian Research Council



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