Most species in the world perform some kind of courtship ritual to ensure they are choosing a partner with strong genes of the same species. For many birds that means hopping around and dancing, or for Drosophila flies this equates to intricate scissoring wing patterns.
Wood frog courtship
Wood frogs have another interesting way of courtship, in the form of singing. After emerging from their winter hideouts, these frogs relocate to pond habitats to start their breeding. This results in hundreds of male frogs all squished together in mating pools, singing in large choruses in order to attract local females and if picked, get the chance to reproduce.
In this chorus, different frogs contribute a range of pitches. “A chorus of wood frogs can sound a lot like the chaotic gobbling from a group of rowdy turkeys,” says Ryan Calsbeek from Dartmouth College who is the lead author of a new study that aimed to learn more about the ins and outs of wood frog breeding.
How does pitch influence the frogs’ mating decisions?
Calsbeek and his team looked at wood frog choruses like never before, using an acoustic camera to allow extraction of individual songs from the overwhelming sounds of the group. This experiment is the first believed instance to use this technology in order to study the breeding behavior of animals.
From this data, the pitch of each individual could be compared with their ability to find a mate, deciphering the influence pitch plays in their chance of a partnership.
The group concluded that female frogs were actually not that interested in males on an individual level. What seemed to act as the strongest attractant was when a group chorus featured lower voices with little variation in pitch. Males were found to not show a preference for others that sang in a lower pitch, however, they did try and time their songs to match other frogs nearby.
Why is this important?
As with any research on the animal kingdom, it is worthwhile for conservation efforts. The more we understand how different species operate in the wild, the better job humans can do to protect them and ensure their environmental needs are not disrupted.
Plus, humans can learn a lot from mother nature and are constantly being inspired by the natural world. You never know what new invention could come out of studying it, including dandelion seed-like sensors, a squid-inspired temperature-controlling material, and bacterial enzymes that produce medicines, to name a few.
Source study: Ecology Letters – Individual contributions to group chorus dynamics influence access to mating opportunities in wood frogs