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Keywords:

  • road ecology;
  • noise pollution;
  • habitat fragmentation;
  • road mortality;
  • vocalization;
  • female attraction

Abstract

We previously found that males of two anuran species – Hyla versicolor and Rana clamitans – alter their mating calls in response to traffic noise. To test whether these alterations compensate for an effect of traffic noise on mate attraction, we (1) recorded a male calling at a quiet site; (2) played traffic noise at the same male and recorded its altered call; (3) used these recordings to attract females to a trap at sites either with or without broadcast traffic noise. The calls produced without traffic noise attracted fewer females when they were played at sites with traffic noise than when they were played at sites without noise. However, the calls of the same individuals produced with traffic noise attracted as many females at sites with noise as at sites without noise, and they attracted as many females as did the call of the same male made without noise and played at sites without noise (the ‘natural’ situation). Therefore, for these species, traffic noise does not affect mate attraction; males change their calls to compensate for a potential effect of traffic noise on mate attraction. A third species – Bufo americanus – does not alter its call in response to traffic noise, and its call made in the absence or presence of traffic noise was equally able to attract females in the absence or presence of traffic noise, indicating that traffic noise does not negatively affect mate attraction. Therefore, it appears that traffic noise does not negatively affect mate attraction in these three species of anurans. We suggest that, if our results apply to anurans in general, the previously documented negative effects of roads on anuran populations are likely caused mainly by road mortality. If this is true, road mitigation for anurans should focus mainly on reducing this mortality.