Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Periodic Report Summary 1 - CHEMICAL DEFENCES (Environment-induced plastic responses in chemical defences of a vertebrate)

The main aim of the project is to study various aspects of environmental effects on the chemical defences of a vertebrate, the common toad (Bufo bufo) and their larvae. We performed several laboratory- and field-based experiments, as well as field observations. Our experiments provide the first evidence for toxin synthesis in larval amphibians. We observed no significant differences in the quantity or composition of the toxins produced by tadpoles that developed in the presence or absence of predators. The lack of antipredator-responses in the chemical defences of tadpoles may indicate that toxin production may have got genetically fixed in the sampled population. It is also possible that skin toxins may mainly serve another purpose, such as defence against competitors or pathogens. Indeed, our studies provide the first evidence that the intensity of competition may induce changes in the chemical defences in any vertebrate. We have also performed studies investigating effects of pathogens on toxin production, results of which are being analysed currently. We also documented ontogenetic changes in toxin production of larval and post-metamorphic toads: the quantity of toxins produced first increases in the most vulnerable life-stage and later decreases, when tadpoles become larger and less susceptible to predators. In two studies we were looking for costs of toxin production, but these delivered no positive result, suggesting relatively low costs arising from the synthesis of toxins. In parallel to the studies primarily concerned with chemical defences, we also performed studies on predator recognition in amphibian larvae, on their sensitivity to climate change and agricultural contaminants, as well as on the ontogeny of animal personality.
The fellow currently holds the position of a senior researcher on a temporary contract, but will become tenured in autumn 2017, when his other large grant runs out. With the help of the MC CIG the fellow started up the highly efficient Evolutionary Ecology Research Group (EERG) in the Host institute (Plant Protection Institute, Centre For Agricultural Research, Hungarian Academy of Sciences; PPI CAR HAS) currently consisting of four post-docs and four undergraduates. During the reporting period the fellow published ten papers in international scientific journals, obtained two small research grants and a post-doc fellowship, and has started to write application for national and international grants. The fellows’ research group considerably enhanced the scientific output of the Host institute (by ca. 80 % in terms of cumulative impact factor in 2015), organized two workshops for young scientists of the Host Institute, took part in eight national and twelve international conferences, participated in the teaching activities of two universities, developed and maintained tight collaborations with three research groups within the Host institute and several other groups outside, embarked on a project involving agricultural pests, and started to study effects of herbicides on non-target organisms, thereby contributing to the training of young researchers, disseminating research results, and becoming well- integrated into the Host institute and the Hungarian research landscape.

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Life Sciences
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