Prey species must constantly acquire information on predator identity, abundance and dangerousness from the environment. In aquatic habitats, this information is mainly propagated by water-borne chemical signals, either predator-specific odours or prey alarm cues. Anuran larvae innately respond to conspecific alarm cues and are able to associate them to predator cues during their lifetime. In this study, we investigated the anti-predatory responses of endemic Italian agile frog (Rana latastei) tadpoles exposed to either conspecific or heterospecific alarm cues and a native predator's (Anax imperator larvae) odour. Pre-and post-stimulus behaviours of each tadpole were recorded by a digital camera and analysed by a source executable software for image-based tracking. We found that Italian agile frog tadpoles responded to fasted dragonfly odour by strongly reducing their activity, both in terms of the amount of time they spent active and path length covered in comparison to control groups. Contrary to previous studies, predators' diet had a negligible effect on tadpole response and our experiment did not bring any evidence of the phylogenetic-relatedness hypothesis. The innate or early-in-development recognition of dragonfly larvae is clearly adaptive and may increase tadpole survival with relatively low costs, but, at the same time, may increase the risk of ignoring novel potential threats.
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