Quantification of underwater calling and foraging activities in the African clawed frog Xenopus laevis
Aquatic anuran species are difficult to detect and observe and this is a major limit to the study of their behaviour and ecology. This habit limits the direct monitoring of sexual and foraging activity, and the investigation of how environmental factors influence their expression as well as how individuals allocate time between competing activities. We investigated this issue in Xenopus laevis, a mostly aquatic frog that forages and emits calls underwater. This model species in biology has been extensively studied in the lab but its behaviour in nature remains poorly described. We carried out a study in a pond during the breeding season in the French invasive range. We recorded underwater vocal activity as a proxy for sexual activity using a hydrophone, set food-baited traps to quantify foraging activity, and recorded environmental conditions (moonlight intensity, temperature and rainfall) over two lunar cycles. We found that individuals engage in these two activities during the breeding season. At the peak of the breeding period, vocal activity was expressed during the day. The investment in reproduction (calling activity) may reduce the time allocated to foraging on a circadian scale. The two activities seem to be partitioned depending on moonlight intensity, with a stronger effect on males. Foraging activity decreased and vocal activity increased when moonlight intensity increased. We also observed a negative effect of temperature and a positive effect of rainfall on vocal activity only. Our method is promising to monitor the activity of other aquatic anurans.