Variation in Male Calling Behaviour and Relation to Male Mating Success in the Strawberry Poison Frog (Dendrobates pumilio)


Corresponding author: Heike Pröhl, University of Texas at Austin, Section of Integrative Biology C0930, Austin, TX 78712–1064, USA. E-mail:,


Calling behaviour and the characteristics of the males’ call are important for mate attraction, female mate choice and male mating success in anurans. In this study I investigated the variation in calling activity and the variation in one spectral (dominant frequency) and four temporal properties (call rate, call duration, duty cycle and pulse rate) of the advertisement call of strawberry poison frogs, Dendrobates pumilio, in two Costa Rican populations during two study periods. Regarding all call properties, no differences were found between populations or years, but between-male variation was significantly higher than within-recording and within-male variation. Dominant frequency was less variable within and among males than temporal call properties and I classified the former as static and the latter as intermediate properties of the call. No call property seemed to be strongly affected by body length or weight. Moreover, I used behavioural observations to relate male calling behaviour to mating success. Calling activity was more variable between males and accounted for more variability in mating success in multiple regression models than any call property. Some call properties (call rate, dominant frequency and pulse rate) were also related to male mating success in one or two study periods. These call properties are probably important for females during courtship to assess their prospective mate and/or for competitive male–male interactions. Furthermore, I compared call properties and mating success of some males for which data were available for both study periods. Pulse rate was lower in the second than in the first year, suggesting age-related changes in this call property. Moreover, male D. pumilio increased their relative mating success from the first to the second study year. Together with other studies, the data of this study suggest that, in anurans, endurance rivalry contributes more to variation in male mating success than does female choice based on male characteristics.