Environmental conditions limit attractiveness of a complex sexual signal in the túngara frog

Wouter Halfwerk, Judith A H Smit, Hugo Loning, Amanda M Lea, Inga Geipel, Jacintha Ellers, Michael J Ryan

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Animals choosing particular display sites often balance sexual and natural selection pressures. Here we assess how physical properties of display sites can alter this balance by influencing signal production and attractiveness of the túngara frog (Physalaemus pustulosus). Males that call from very shallow water bodies (few mm depth) benefit from reduced predation risk, but by manipulating water levels, we show that this comes at a cost of reduced attractiveness to females. Our data show that calling from shallower water reduces a male's ability to float, limits the inflation of his vocal sac, and consequently reduces signal conspicuousness in terms of amplitude and complexity. Our results demonstrate that display site properties can set limits on signal production and attractiveness and may hence influence signal evolution. Signallers may shift between sites or engineer their display location, which can play a crucial role in signal divergence and speciation, particularly in a rapidly changing world.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1891
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2017


  • Journal Article


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