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Calls in the wild: Romance and the eastern gray tree frog

Courtesy of the Höbel lab
The chosen male frog jumps on the female’s back and she carries him to the pond to mate. Females often drive sexual selection, a preference by one sex for certain characteristics in those of the other sex — and that influences evolution in a species.

In the wild, frog romance is a raucous affair. When it’s time to mate, the female eastern gray tree frog makes her way to the pond, when there could be hundreds of potential suitors each calling to her in loud chirps that have different audible characteristics.

In this nocturnal chorus, the male aims to charm the female with his particular call. But what makes a call “attractive?” On this episode of Curious Campus, we talk with two researchers who specialize in amphibian communication — how frogs message each other and then decide how to respond.

Gerlinde Höbel is an associate professor in biological sciences at UW-Milwaukee. Michael Reichert is an assistant professor of integrative biology at Oklahoma State University.

The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee produces the UWM Chancellor’s Report and Curious Campus, a show about science, discovery and culture.