Evol Ecol Res 13: 197-207 (2011)     Full PDF if your library subscribes.

Evolution of high-frequency communication in frogs

Arjan Boonman1,2 and Hellen Kurniati2

1School of Biological and Chemical Sciences, Queen Mary, University of London, London, UK and 2Division of Zoology, Research Centre for Biology, Indonesian Institute of Sciences, Cibinong, Indonesia

Correspondence: A. Boonman, School of Biological and Chemical Sciences, Queen Mary, University of London, Mile End Road, London E1 4NS, UK.
e-mail: arjan.boonman@gmx.net


Background: Two species of frog are currently known to produce high-frequency or even partly ultrasonic vocalizations, Odorrana tormota and Huia cavitympanum. Both possess special adaptations to their hearing system that extend their hearing into the high-frequency range. Typical stream-dwelling species of frog are not known to use high frequencies.

Goal: To investigate the environmental conditions that may have led to the evolution of very high-frequency communication in some frog species.

Method: Study auditory communication in Huia masonii, a frog of habitats next to fast-flowing streams on the island of Java, Indonesia. Study the tympanums of all members of the genus Huia. Measure the acoustic characteristics of fast-flowing water. Calculate water noise levels (amplitudes) at different distances from streamside.

Results: All four members of the genus Huia possess a modified tympanal membrane, suggesting that high-frequency communication is present in all members. All frogs using high-frequency communication live along turbulent perennial streams. They all appear to be solitary callers and experience low encounter rates between partners. The high frequencies used by Huia improve signal detection and discrimination but only within 103 m of a noisy river; they are unsuited for long-range detection. Beyond 103 m of noisy rivers, communication using normal (low) frequencies is more advantageous.

Keywords: acoustic, communication, evolution, frog, Huia masonii, ultrasonic.

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