This means the next time you spot a frog that appears to be dead, it could just be the female amphibian trying to escape male attention, scientists have discovered.

In Summary

  • This behavior could also be a way to test a males strength and endurance
  • Female frogs playing dead to avoid mating

A new study published in the Royal Society found that female European common frogs avoid aggressive male frogs during mating season by playing dead.

This means the next time you spot a frog that appears to be dead, it could just be the female amphibian trying to escape male attention, scientists have discovered.

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The Team Study

(Image credit: Anne Coatesy/Shutterstock)

 

The team from the Natural History Museum of Berlin in Germany placed a male frog in a box with one large female and one small female and recorded the mating behavior.

Dittrich and her co-author, Dr Mark-Oliver Rödel, report how they placed each male frog in a box with two females: one large and one small. The mating behaviour was then recorded on video.

The team collected common frogs during the breeding season – 96 females and 48 males  – and placed one male and two differently sized females in a box filled with 5 centimetres of water.

The frogs were then allowed to move freely for 1 hour while the team recorded their behaviour.

Thirty-three percent of the frogs clasped by male expressed tonic immobility .

This is when a frog stiffens its outstretched arms and legs to appear dead.

The immobility tended to occur alongside both rotating and calling.

Smaller females more frequently used all three tactics together than the bigger frogs.

The team acknowledges that this behavior could also be a way to test a males strength and endurance as those traits could boost their survival chances. They also point out that a larger sample size is needed to see if smaller females are more successful at escaping.

Study Limitations

The study also has limitations, including that a larger sample size is needed to investigate whether smaller females are indeed more successful at escaping, as the research hints, and that only one male was presented to each pair of females

 

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