Contributions to Zoology, 80 (1) – 2011Roger-Daniel Randrianiaina; Axel Strauß; Julian Glos; Frank Glaw; Miguel Vences: Diversity, external morphology and ‘reverse taxonomy’ in the specialized tadpoles of Malagasy river bank frogs of the subgenus Ochthomantis (genus Mantidactylus)

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We provide detailed morphological descriptions of the tadpoles of Malagasy river bank frogs of the subgenera Ochthomantis and Maitsomantis (genus Mantidactylus, family Mantellidae), and data on relative abundance and habitat preferences of Ochthomantis species from Ranomafana National Park in southeastern Madagascar. Our study includes the tadpoles of six described and four undescribed candidate species. Eight of these larvae were previously unknown. Tadpoles were identified by DNA barcoding. Due to the very rudimentary taxonomic knowledge on Ochthomantis, we followed a ‘reverse taxonomy’ approach in which adult classification was to a great part determined on the basis of larval differences. By this procedure we even identified one candidate species whose adults remain still unknown. The majority of tadpoles in Ochthomantis and Maitsomantis have a rather similar body shape and they usually have similar habitat requirements. However, on the basis of the structure of their oral disk we identified three distinct groups: the first includes the femoralis-like tadpoles of Mantidactylus femoralis, M. ambreensis, M. zolitschka, M. argenteus, and of the candidate species named M. sp. 42, M. sp. 43 and M. sp. 47. They all have a reduced oral disk with poorly keratinized jaw sheaths and labial teeth. The mocquardi-like tadpoles of M. mocquardi and M. sp. 64 are placed in the second group and are characterized by a further reduction of oral disk structures, i.e. a complete lack of labial teeth. The third group includes only M. majori and is characterized by the transformation of the upper jaw sheath into three thorn-shaped projections. Based on a preliminary molecular phylogenetic analysis the reduction of keratinized oral structures in M. majori may have occurred convergently to that in M. mocquardi. The ecological data indicate that the tadpoles of the three most abundant species in Ranomafana (M. femoralis, M. majori and M. sp. 47) do not obviously differ in their choice of microhabitat although the differences in their oral structures indicate that they might use different food resources. They all show a preference for the stream areas with slow current and leaf litter substrate.