Changes in the Frequency Structure of a Mating Call Decrease Its Attractiveness to Females in the Cricket Frog Acris crepitans blanchardi


Klaudia Witte, Lehrstuhl für Verhaltensforschung, Universität Bielefeld, Postfach 100131, 33501 Bielefeld, Germany. E-mail:


In many species, females often prefer male signals that are more complex than in nature or beyond the range of calls naturally produced by conspecific males in spectral, temporal and amplitude features. In this study we examined both the ability of females to recognize signals outside the normal range of spectral frequency variation seen in male advertisement calls, and the influence of increasing call complexity by adding spectral components to enhance the attractiveness of a male advertisement call in the cricket frog Acris crepitans blanchardi, while keeping its amplitude constant. We used two different natural male call groups and created the following synthetic call groups: with a dominant frequency at 3500 Hz, i.e. at the normal dominant frequency with a frequency band within the sensitivity range of the inner ear basilar papilla; with a dominant frequency at 700 Hz, i.e. outside the normal range of variation and with a frequency band outside the sensitivity range of the basilar papilla but within the range of the amphibian papilla; with two dominant frequencies, one at 700 Hz and another at 3500 Hz, stimulating the basilar and amphibian papilla simultaneously. In double choice experiments we tested all combinations of the three call groups, and we tested the 3500 Hz call groups against the same natural call groups. Additionally, we tested the 700 Hz call groups against white noise to see whether these signals are meaningful in mate choice. Females preferred 3500 Hz call groups over all other call groups. The synthetic call group was as attractive to females as the same natural call group. The 700 Hz call group was not meaningful in mate choice. The combined (700 Hz + 3500 Hz) call group was significantly less attractive to females than the 3500 Hz call group. Thus, making a call more spectrally complex without increasing its overall amplitude decreases its attractiveness to cricket frog females.