Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 61, Issue 6, pp 955–966 | Cite as

Selective phonotaxis by male wood frogs (Rana sylvatica) to the sound of a chorus

Original Paper


Frogs and toads commonly form large choruses around suitable breeding habitat during the mating season. Although often regarded as a constraint on the acoustic behavior of signalers and receivers, the sounds of a chorus could also serve as an acoustic beacon that allows some frogs to locate the breeding aggregation. Attraction to chorus sounds might be particularly important for explosively breeding frogs. In these species, which often mate just one or a few days during the year, the timing and location of breeding aggregations can be unpredictable because their formation often depends on local climatic factors, such as rainfall or a change in temperature. I used laboratory playback experiments to test the hypothesis that male wood frogs (Rana sylvatica), an explosively breeding frog, exhibit positive phonotaxis toward the sound of a conspecific chorus. Males were released at the center of a rectangular arena with a speaker positioned in each corner facing toward the release point. In a single-stimulus experiment, more males approached a speaker broadcasting a conspecific chorus than the three silent speakers in the arena. In a two-stimulus experiment, more males approached a speaker broadcasting a conspecific chorus compared to the two silent speakers or a fourth speaker simultaneously broadcasting the spectrally overlapping sound of a heterospecific (R. septentrionalis) chorus. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that male wood frogs could use the sound of a chorus as a beacon to locate a short-lived breeding aggregation.


Animal communication Explosive breeder Frog chorus Rana sylvatica Phonotaxis Wood frog 



I thank John Moriarty and the Ramsey County Parks Department for access to the Tamarack Nature Center. Eli Swanson and Sandra Tekmen provided helpful assistance collecting and testing frogs. Alejandro Velez, Vince Marshall, and two anonymous referees provided helpful feedback on previous versions of the manuscript. This work was approved by the University of Minnesota’s IACUC (#0510A76966) on December 15, 2005, conducted under Special Permit 13313 from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, and complied with all laws of the USA.


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© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Ecology, Evolution, and BehaviorUniversity of MinnesotaSaint PaulUSA

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