Data collected by citizen scientists reveal the role of climate and phylogeny on the frequency of shelter types used by frogs across the Americas

Lucas Rodriguez Forti, Mariana Retuci Pontes, Guilherme Augusto-Alves, Allana Martins, Fábio Hepp, Judit K. Szabo

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Shelters are microhabitats where animals rest and hide. These microhabitats can be used from short daily periods to long-term estivation or hibernation. Environmental conditions and the phenotypical characteristics of the animal drive habitat selection in relation to shelters. Based on this, climate regions and phylogeny are expected to affect the use of different shelter types. Although shelters are yet to be described for most anuran species, a variety of microhabitats have already been reported as shelter-sites, including dense vegetation, rock crevices, and holes in the ground. In this study, we evaluated photos of frogs for sheltering behaviour from 29 countries in the Americas deposited on the popular citizen-science platform, iNaturalist. We compared the frequency of use of different shelter types identified on the photos among different climate regions and anuran families, also testing possible phylogenetic signals. We identified 11,133 photographs of 378 frog species showing individuals hiding in shelters or in a resting position. We classified observations into 10 shelter types, with live vegetation (24.7 %) being the most commonly recorded natural shelter, followed by hole in the ground (11.4 %) and tree trunk (11.1 %). The use of different shelter types varied between arid and humid climates, and also among different anuran families. We found strong phylogenetic signal for three shelter types (hole in the ground, live vegetation, and water) and the differences in shelter use among taxa suggest a relation with body characteristics. Approximately 47 % of observations of threatened and near threatened species were in hole in the ground, while artificial habitat represented only 3.6 % of the observations in this group. The daily pattern of shelter use corroborated the nocturnal activity of most species. Our findings also expanded the description of shelter sites for 330 species that had no published information on this behaviour. This study contributes to our current knowledge about animal behaviour and highlights the use of citizen science as an effective approach to understand the natural history of amphibians at a large scale.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number126052
    Pages (from-to)1-11
    Number of pages11
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022


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