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Female frogs play the field

Multiple partners and nests increase odds that offspring will survive

6:00pm, September 9, 2008

The danger of putting all your eggs in one basket is very real for a small Australian frog.

A new study has found that female Pseudophryne bibronii frogs lay eggs fathered by up to eight different males in up to eight different nests. The mothers aren’t being risqué — the extreme behavior actually reduces risk of offspring death, the team reports in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

While polyandry — one female mating with multiple males — appears to be a common strategy among animals, eight partners in a row is a new record for vertebrates, says biologist Phillip Byrne of Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, who led the new study. Such dalliances might be more widespread among animals that nest in unpredictable environments or within mating systems where the male is in charge of the nest, the research suggests.

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