Some amphibian larvae develop brightly colored or black tail fins when reared in ponds with predaceous insects. The conspicuous tail has been proposed to lure predator strikes toward the tail and away from the more vulnerable head/body region. We tested this hypothesis by presenting model tadpoles that differed only in coloration to Aeshna dragonfly larvae. The models had either a dark body and pale tail, a dark spot in the middle of the tail, or a dark spot near the tip of the tail. Almost all models with plain tails were struck on the head/body, whereas those with dark spots in the tail were struck significantly more often on the tail. Because living tadpoles survive better when attacked on the tail than on the head, our results show that tail coloration can protect tadpoles from predators at close range.

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