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Calling site choice and its impact on call degradation and call attractiveness in the gray treefrog, Hyla versicolor

Abstract

To evaluate the effects of calling site on call degradation, we broadcast synthetic advertisement calls of male gray treefrogs through forest, over open terrain, and across pond water. Calls were recorded at distances of 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, and 32 m. We varied speaker and microphone heights for a total of five elevation combinations ranging from surface level to a height of 1.5 m. We quantified structural degradation in recorded calls using “∆V,” a measure of relative sound energy in call pulses and interpulse intervals. A subset of recorded calls was used in two-speaker discrimination tests with females. Finally, we examined male selection of perch height by recording locations of calling males on ladder-like trellises positioned around the periphery of a breeding pond. We found the greatest degradation for calls broadcast through forest followed by calls transmitted across open terrain and then pond water. At relatively small source-receiver separations, elevation had only small effects on degradation. However, for separations greater than 4 m (especially through forest), elevation had a significant impact on ∆V—with calls broadcast and recorded near the substrate particularly vulnerable to degradation. Choice tests demonstrated that such levels of degradation could significantly reduce a male’s attractiveness. This may, in part, explain why males only seldom called from low rungs of trellises.

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Acknowledgments

We thank Kirsanov Charles, Stephen Sizensky, Reginald Jemison, Stacy Thomas, Jennifer Noviski, and Michael Disimone for help in the lab and field. Jeffrey Storms helped set up the weather station, and Chris Ruthven provided access to the Veteran’s Park during evening hours. We are especially grateful to Kentwood Wells and three anonymous reviewers for valuable comments on the manuscript. This work was supported with Pace University Scholarly Research Awards to JJS.

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Correspondence to Joshua J. Schwartz.

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The experiments performed comply with the current laws of the USA and were approved by the Animal Care and Use Committee of Pace University (protocol no. 2009–1).

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Communicated by K. Summers

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Schwartz, J.J., Hunce, R., Lentine, B. et al. Calling site choice and its impact on call degradation and call attractiveness in the gray treefrog, Hyla versicolor . Behav Ecol Sociobiol 70, 1–19 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00265-015-2016-8

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Keywords

  • Calling site
  • Call degradation
  • Female choice
  • Treefrogs
  • Hyla