Science Snapshot: Identifying Individual Frogs In A Chorus

Using an acoustic camera, researchers were able to locate individual male wood frogs by their mating calls and determine which songs the females liked best.

Lisa Winter
Lisa Winter

Lisa Winter became social media editor for The Scientist in 2017. In addition to her duties on social media platforms, she also pens obituaries for the website. She graduated from Arizona State University, where she studied genetics, cell, and developmental biology.

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Apr 29, 2022

If you go down by the water when wood frogs (Lithobates sylvaticus) begin mating, you’ll hear a cacophony of males calling out in search of a mate. With hundreds of overlapping calls, what actually attracts a female? A recent study in Ecology Letters has used an acoustic camera to isolate individual males calling out in the chorus and individually characterized the frequency of their call. The researchers, led by Ryan Calsbeek at Dartmouth College, found that females prefer mating when the frequency of the calls is more uniform, but also when the peak frequency is lower. They conclude that individual voices within the larger collective have the potential to make or break a frog’s ability to mate, and groups of males stay far enough apart to minimize interference from outsiders’ calls and disturb both groups’ potential for attracting mates.