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Complex Vocal Responses to Conspecific Calls in Whistling Frogs Eleutherodactylus johnstonei: Playback Experiments in the Field

Authors

  • Zaida Tárano,

    Corresponding author
    1. Instituto de Biología Experimental, Universidad Central de Venezuela, Caracas, Venezuela
    • Correspondence

      Zaida Tárano, Instituto de Biología Experimental, Universidad Central de Venezuela, Apartado Postal 47106, Caracas 1041A, Venezuela.

      E-mail: zaida.tarano@ciens.ucv.ve

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  • Eloisa Fuenmayor

    1. Instituto de Biología Experimental, Universidad Central de Venezuela, Caracas, Venezuela
    2. Asociación para la Conservación de las Áreas Naturales (ACOANA), Caracas, Venezuela
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Abstract

We simulated the presence of an acoustic competitor by broadcasting conspecific playbacks to males of Johnstone's whistling frog, Eleutherodactylus johnstonei, in the field. We broadcast calls that differed in duration (short, typical, and long), dominant frequency (high, typical, and low), and period (short, typical, and long), and analyzed male vocal responses. We tested the hypothesis that males respond by escalating vocally when they are exposed to female-attractive calls and by ignoring unattractive ones. At the population level, males responded to playbacks in ways that would potentially increase their attractiveness with regard to solo calling: males increased the duration, reduced the dominant frequency, and increased their calling effort (duty cycle), despite an increase in call period. The modification of call duration occurred only in response to playbacks of low-frequency calls, long calls, and short-period calls (selective response), while the modification of the dominant frequency was independent of the characteristic of the playback (fixed response). Contrary to the expected, males did not reduce the call period when they were exposed to attractive playbacks. At the ultimate level, the results suggest energy-saving strategies. In addition, males seem to trade off call period for the avoidance of acoustic interference with attractive calls as calling effort was typically increased by increasing call duration but only rarely by reducing the call period. Interactive playbacks are necessary to better understand the calling strategies of males of E. johnstonei.

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