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Frog found to describe its home through song

Dec. 22, 2011
Courtesy of the Royal Society
and World Science staff

When woo­ing fe­ma­les, a type of frog in Chi­na de­scribes its home through song—con­vey­ing the depth and en­trance size of the mud­dy bur­row with some ac­cu­ra­cy, a study sug­gests.

Sci­en­tists based at the Chin­ese Acad­e­my of Sci­ences and Uni­vers­ity of Cal­i­for­nia in­ves­t­i­gated the frog Ba­bina dau­chi­na, bet­ter known as the Emei mu­sic frog thanks to its dis­tinc­tive banjo-like call. 

The Emei mu­sic frog (credit: The Royal Society) 


The male frogs build bur­rows along­side ponds to pro­vide a suit­a­ble place for mat­ing, lay­ing eggs and rear­ing tad­poles. The re­search­ers no­ticed that they seem to make dif­fer­ent calls from in­side and out­side the bur­rows.

By an­a­lys­ing the acous­tic prop­er­ties of the calls and ex­am­in­ing the way female frogs re­act to them, the sci­en­tists found that the male frogs not only ad­ver­tise wheth­er they have a bur­row or not, but al­so its char­ac­ter­is­tics. Female mu­sic frogs are then able to choose the male with the most desira­ble real es­tate, with­out hav­ing to go through the time-con­sum­ing busi­ness of wait­ing to be shown round.

Males in­side bur­rows play higher-pitched notes if the en­trance is wid­er, and long­er notes if the hole is deepe­r, the in­ves­ti­ga­tors ex­plained. Al­so, “Inside-nest calls con­sisted of notes with en­er­gy con­cen­trat­ed at low­er fre­quen­cy [pitch] ranges and long­er note dura­t­ions when com­pared with out­side-nest calls,” they wrote, re­port­ing their find­ings in Dec. 7 in the ad­vance on­line edi­tion of the jour­nal Bi­ol­o­gy Let­ters.

A Youtube vi­deo records Emei mu­sic frogs per­form­ing their ser­e­nades.

“When giv­en a choice be­tween out­side and in­side calls played back al­ter­nate­ly, more than 70 per cent of the fe­males (33/47) chose in­side calls,” the sci­en­tists added. 

“Males of this spe­cies faith­fully ad­ver­tise wheth­er or not they pos­sess a nest to po­ten­tial mates by vo­cal com­mu­nica­t­ion… These re­sults sug­gest that fe­males are able to eval­u­ate the re­sources of their po­ten­tial mates and se­lect against males lack­ing such re­sources, mainly de­pend­ing on ad­ver­tis­ing calls.”


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When wooing females, a type of frog in China describes its home through song—conveying the depth and the entrance size of the muddy burrow with some accuracy, scientists have found. Scientists based at the Chinese Academy of Sciences and University of California investigated the frog Babina dauchina, better known as the Emei music frog thanks to its distinctive banjo-like call. The male frogs build burrows along the edges of ponds to provide a suitable location for mating, laying eggs and rearing tadpoles. The researchers noticed that they seem to make different calls from inside and outside the burrows. By analysing the acoustic properties of the calls and examining the way that female frogs react to them, the scientists found that the male frogs not only advertise whether they have a burrow or not, but also its physical characteristics such as the size of its entrance and its depth. Female music frogs are then able to choose the male with the most desirable real estate, without having to go through the time-consuming business of waiting to be shown round. Males inside burrows play higher-pitched notes if the entrance is wider, and longer notes if the hole is deeper, the investigators explained. Also, “Inside-nest calls consisted of notes with energy concentrated at lower frequency [pitch] ranges and longer note durations when compared with outside-nest calls,” they wrote, reporting their findings in Dec. 7 in the advance online edition of the journal Biology Letters. A Youtube video records Emei music frogs serenading. “When given a choice between outside and inside calls played back alternately, more than 70 per cent of the females (33/47) chose inside calls,” the scientists added. “Males of this species faithfully advertise whether or not they possess a nest to potential mates by vocal communication… These results suggest that females are able to evaluate the resources of their potential mates and select against males lacking such resources, mainly depending on advertising calls.”