Torrent frog flirting is complicated

Hylodes japi

Male (at left in illustration) and female (right) Hylodes japi torrent frogs communicate through flirtatious calls, peeps and squeaks as well as varying body movement and postures.  

de Sá et al/PLOS ONE 2015

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Flirting is a full-scale production for torrent frogs. Hylodes japi males advertise to females with calls, Brazilian researchers noted last year. Now those scientists report January 13 in PLOS ONE that this species also performs a complex combination of vocal serenades, coordinated body movements and other visual signals — all in hopes of securing a mate.

Observing frogs at a reserve in southeastern Brazil over 15 months,  the team finds that different body movements and vocalizations seem to convey specific messages to mates and competing suitors as part of a highly sophisticated communication system.

On the banks of a babbling brook, male frogs typically call out and puff up their vocal sacs to get a female’s attention. This is followed by a lot of limb waving, hand and foot shaking and toe wiggling by both males and females. Interested females will even touch males to elicit a courtship call, a behavior never before observed in frogs. 

A male Hylodes japi frog lets out an advertisement call and waves his leg and toes to attract females.  

Credit: de Sá et al/PLOS ONE 2015

Helen Thompson

Helen Thompson is the associate digital editor. She has undergraduate degrees in biology and English from Trinity University and a master’s degree in science writing from Johns Hopkins University.

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