Neighbor–Stranger Discrimination in Concave-Eared Torrent Frogs, Odorrana tormota


Albert S. Feng, 2355 Beckman Institute, University of Illinois, Urbana, IL 61801, USA. E-mail:


The dear enemy phenomenon in which animals discriminate familiar neighbors from unknown strangers, and respond more aggressively to strangers is well established in various social animals, especially in songbirds and mammals. So far, very few studies of neighbor–stranger discrimination have been carried out in amphibians and the results have been mixed. Thus, it is unclear whether this phenomenon exists commonly in frogs and toads, and whether it is exhibited by species with large vocal repertoires. We conducted acoustic playback experiments with male concave-eared torrent frogs (Odorrana tormota, a species with an unusually large vocal repertoire) kept in a tank in a quiet room to investigate whether or not they can discriminate strangers from neighbors acoustically. Nine of the 14 males tested showed evoked vocal responses to the calls from strangers, but none to calls from neighbors; vocal response to the calls from strangers was accompanied by aggressive motor activity. These results demonstrate that male O. tormota possess the ability to discriminate neighbors from strangers acoustically. Odorrana tormota therefore joins three ranid species (Rana catesbiana, Rana clamitans, Rana dalmatina, all known to have a comparatively small and stereotyped vocal repertoires) as the only anurans demonstrated to have this ability. Given the difference in signaling complexity between these frog species, the salient acoustic features used for discriminating neighbors and strangers are likely to be quite distinct.