Original Article

Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 49, Issue 2, pp 150-156

First online:

Advertisement call duration indicates good genes for offspring feeding rate in gray tree frogs (Hyla versicolor)

  • Grace V. DotyAffiliated withDivision of Biological Sciences, University of Missouri, Columbia, MO 65211, USA
  • , A. M. WelchAffiliated withDivision of Biological Sciences, University of Missouri, Columbia, MO 65211, USA

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Indicator or ”good genes” models of sexual selection predict that mating preferences allow females to choose mates that are genetically superior. Female gray tree frogs (Hyla versicolor) prefer male advertisement calls of long call duration, which can be indicators of enhanced offspring growth performance. We tested the effects of father’s call duration and the presence of a caged predator (dragonfly naiad) on tadpole activity and growth in a factorial experiment, controlling for maternal and environmental effects. The effect of food availability (a repeated measure) on tadpole activity was also examined. Tadpoles responded to predator presence and to high food availability by decreasing activity and feeding. Tadpoles exposed to a caged predator were smaller after 14 days than those exposed to an empty cage, suggesting that spending less time feeding carries the cost of reduced growth. Offspring of males with long versus short calls responded similarly to the presence of a predator. Nonetheless, offspring of long-calling males spent more time feeding than did offspring of short-calling males, except when a predator was present but no food was available. Increased time spent feeding may contribute to enhanced offspring growth and, therefore, to the indirect benefit that a female may realize by selecting a mate with long calls. However, because the behavioral differences depended on the environment, and because the fitness consequences of such behavioral differences should also vary with the environment, the benefit of mating with a long-calling male may depend on the conditions encountered by the offspring.

Keywords Activity Anurans Growth Indicator trait Mate choice