Frog ‘Love Ripples’ Attract Predators

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Male Tungara (Physalaemus pustulosus) frog, a tiny native of the Central and South America, call from their puddles to attract females. They start perching in a shallow pond and create a unique mating call that comes out as a series of whines and “chuck” sounds which create ripples that attract the attention of frog-eating bats.

On Thursday, researchers from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) in Panama, found that these ripples are used by the other male frogs to assess their competition – and also by bats (Trachops cirrhosus) searching for their next meal.

Researchers from the United States, the Netherlands and Panama decided to study the affect of ripples on the competition among frogs and predation by local bats that eat frogs.

“Imagine the frog that’s in a pond,” behavioral biologist Wouter Halfwerk said in a telephonic interview. “It’s like its being spied upon by some agent that is spying on your communications.”

“You try and make your love song and all of a sudden, yeah, you’re screwed because someone is listening in on your call by using a completely different communication channel and mode,” said Halfwerk, one of the scientists in the study at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama.

Smithsonian scientists said the bats use echolocation a natural kind of sonar to recognize these ripples and zero in on the frog.

“Once they scan the surface, they get an enormous amount of information from these ripples,” Halfwerk said.

The team revealed that competing male frogs more than twofold of their call rate when presented with rivals’ ripples and sound contrast to sound only. However, male frogs did not retort to ripples by themselves.

The “tún-gara” noise of the very small rainforest frog is equivalent to a peacock’s train.

The Research was published in the journal Science.