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Calling Patterns in Male Responses to Conspecific Playbacks in the Johnstone’s Whistling Frog Eleutherodactylus johnstonei


Zaida Tárano, Instituto de Biología Experimental, Universidad Central de Venezuela, Caracas, Venezuela. E-mail:


Vocal interactions are common in chorusing frogs. Changes in the calling patterns of Eleutherodactylus johnstonei males were analyzed by recording their responses to playbacks of conspecific calls repeated at fixed periods (long: 1.7 s, short: 0.98 s). The call period and timing, estimated through the onset response time, were determined for each male. Males reduced and regularized the period of their calls in response to both stimuli, regardless of their absolute and relative period (i.e., the difference between the male’s period and the stimulus period). Males avoided initiating their calls during ongoing stimuli, but did not time their calls in the silent gap between successive stimuli in ways that reduced the probability of overlap: the proportion of calls without overlap did not depart from random expectations when the silent gap was long, and was smaller than expected when the gap was short. This result indicated that males react to the presence of the virtual competitor but not to its particular characteristics. Fixed responses have been described in other anurans, and often relate to trade-offs between female attraction, male competition, predator attraction, and depletion of energy reserves. Lack of coordination with the stimuli, beyond inhibition of calling during an ongoing stimulus, also indicates somewhat rigid vocal strategies, at least under the experimental conditions. Results from the short period trials suggested a compromise between maintaining a call period and avoiding call overlap. Whether female behavior is influenced by call interference and whether males pay selective attention to distant males instead of to close neighbors must be investigated to better understand the vocal behavior of E. johnstonei.