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Bats hunt ballooning túngara frogs by echolocation

Sonar spots the puffing throat chamber of the Central American amphibians

By
8:41am, September 1, 2014

FATAL ATTRACTION  The bulbous vocal sacs of male túngara frogs attract females, but the inflating organs also trip the sonar of hungry fringe-lipped bats, a new study finds. 

Bellowing male túngara frogs make easy prey for fringe-lipped bats thanks to echolocation, scientists report August 27 in the Journal of Experimental Biology. The bats’ sonar spies the Central American amphibians’ ballooning vocal sac, turning a sexual display into an invitation for lunch.

When inflated, the vocal sac nearly matches the full body size of the male túngara (Physalaemus pustulosus). Both the sac’s girth and a frog’s love song enchant female mates. Fringe-lipped bats (Trachops cirrhosus) hunt the males, but scientists wondered how senses besides hearing guide the pursuit.

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