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Female Tree Frogs Prefer Multitasking Males' Mating Calls; If They Want To Impress, They'll Have To Last Longer

By Zulai Serrano z.serrano@hngn.com | Aug 17, 2013 09:36 AM EDT

Hyla chrysosceli, Gray Tree Frog
Male tree frog's mating calls ranges from 20-40 pulses per call, lasting anywhere between 5-15 calls per minute. Females prefer calls that are longer and more frequent, which is where great multitasking skills come in. (Photo : WikiCommons)

A new study suggests female tree frogs are particular about their mates; they don't like males who can't juggle more than one task at the same time.

The female gray tree frog species called Hyla chrysosceli will allow a male to successfully woo her when he performs his "trilled" mating call, "consisting of a string of pulses," according to University of Minnesota researchers.

The findings were published in August issue of Animal Behavior.

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Male tree frog's mating calls ranges from 20-40 pulses per call, lasting anywhere between 5-15 calls per minute.  Females prefer calls that are longer and more frequent, which is where great multitasking skills come in.

"It's kind of like singing and dancing at the same time," Jessica Ward, a postdoctoral researcher who is lead author for the study, said in a news release.  Ward works in the laboratory of Mark Bee, a professor in the College of Biological Sciences' Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior.

Researchers suggests that females prefer males who can accept a challenge; they view being able to do two or more difficult tasks a great trait in their mates. Health and "parenting potential" are still important to the frogs, but being able to complete a mating call challenge is the icing on the cake.

The new study looks at how males influence female behavior.  Researchers listened to 1,000 calls, finding male tree frogs are forced to trade off call duration and rate in order to statisfy a female suitor.  If they want to impress her with a longer call, they will have to do so at a slower rate.

"It's easy to imagine that we humans might also prefer multitasking partners, such as someone who can successfully earn a good income, cook dinner, manage the finances and get the kids to soccer practice on time," said Ward.

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