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