Decoy switches frogs’ mating call preference | Science News

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Decoy switches frogs’ mating call preference

Third option alters choice of previous alternatives

By
2:00pm, August 27, 2015
frog

CALLING CARD  Male túngara frogs like this one attract their mates with a series of chirpy croaks. When picking between two calls, females tend to prefer a lower tone and more quickly repeated calls, but adding in a third suitor with an unattractive song may change a female’s preference between the two other males.  

A trick that salesmen use to sell expensive cars may help average frogs snag mates.    

Female túngara frogs often switch which of two mating calls they prefer upon hearing a third, unattractive mating call, researchers report in the Aug. 28 Science. This action resembles a human behavior known as the “decoy effect.”

“People are really interested in this because it’s such a common thing for people,” says study coauthor Amanda Lea, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Texas at Austin. The decoy effect is a well-known marketing trick, where one wholly unappealing option changes a customer’s preference between two others. For example, a customer might prefer a cheap, compact car over a spacious, expensive sedan. But if a salesman presents a third “decoy” option — a car about as large as the sedan but much more expensive — the customer often changes his mind and picks the sedan.

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