Top Story: June 27, 2014

Singing Frogs

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By Molly Michelson

We can all use a little help when it comes to love. Jami Smith wrote about the lengths animals go to woo their mates, from shaking their booties to building sandcastles, in Science Today in February.

A new study, published earlier this month in Zoology, adds another species to that list: the tiny Taiwanese Mientien frog. These tree frogs call to their mates in groups called leks, but in an increasingly noisy world, sometimes even a group has a hard time being heard. So scientists often find the frogs getting a little help to amplify their calls.

Unlike the tree-hole frog, which uses tree hollows to pump up the volume of its love songs, Mientien frogs use man-made drains. Open concrete drains are a common feature in suburban and rural areas across Taiwan and are usually built alongside paved roads or foot-trails. A team of scientists from National Taiwan University found that these miniature urban canyons are sought out by the frogs to boost their mating chances.

The researchers discovered that frog calls emitted from inside drains had greater intensity of sound, in both average and maximum power, and a longer duration than calls produced in natural upland habitats.

No word if, like a Barry White record, the longer, amplified calls lead to more mating success. More research is needed. Keep singing, frogs!

Image: Brandon Po-Han Chou/National Taiwan University

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