Adaptive plasticity in calling site selection in grey treefrogs (Hyla versicolor)

in Behaviour
Restricted Access
Get Access to Full Text
Rent on DeepDyve

Have an Access Token?

Enter your access token to activate and access content online.

Please login and go to your personal user account to enter your access token.


Have Institutional Access?

Access content through your institution. Any other coaching guidance?


Calling behaviour is an essential component of gaining access to mates, and calling site selection may be an important component of effective communication. Environmental factors like microclimate, or the presence of competitors and predators often show seasonal or spatial variation, and behavioural plasticity that allows the caller to adjust to this variation may be adaptive. Prompted by the observation of across-season variation in elevated calling site use in our grey treefrog population, we formulated three hypotheses about their calling site choice and tested them using field observations and behavioural trials in the lab. We found that calling site selection is largely determined by local temperature regimes, and suggest that this temperature-based plasticity in calling site selection is adaptive because it allows males to increase their metabolic efficiency and mate attraction effectiveness. The mere presence of heterospecific competitors and predators did not affect calling site selection at the pond, but close proximity to a predator during behavioural trials did reduce calling activity. This suggests that grey treefrog males attend to the presence of predators, that they can assess the degree of risk associated with predator proximity, and that they can adjust calling behaviour adaptively to reduce the chances of being detected by a predator.



AngillettaM.J.NiewiarowskiP.E.NavasC.A. (2002). The evolution of thermal physiology in ectotherms. — J. Therm. Biol. 27: 249-268.

BernalX.E.RandA.S.RyanM.J. (2006). Acoustic preferences and localization performance of blood-sucking flies (Corethrella Coquillett) to túngara frog calls. — Behav. Ecol. 17: 709-715.

ClaridgeM.F.WilsonM.R.SinghraoJ.S. (1979). The songs and calling sites of two European cicadas. — Ecol. Entomol. 4: 225-229.

DiekampB.M.GerhardtH.C. (1995). Selective phonotaxis to advertisement calls in the gray treefrog Hyla versicolor: behavioral experiments and neurophysiological correlates. — J. Comp. Physiol. A 177: 173-190.

DiwakarS.BalakrishnanR. (2007). Vertical stratification in an acoustically communicating ensiferan assemblage of a tropical evergreen forest in southern India. — J. Trop. Ecol. 23: 479-486.

DohertyJ.A.GerhardtH.C. (1984). Evolutionary and neurobiological implications of selective phonotaxis in the spring peeper (Hyla crucifer). — Anim. Behav. 32: 875-881.

DrewryG.E.RandA.S. (1983). Characteristics of an acoustic community: Puerto Rican frogs of the genus Eleutherodactylus. — Copeia: 941-953.

EtgesW.J. (1987). Call site choice in male anurans. — Copeia: 910-923.

FouqetteM.J.Jr. (1980). Effect of environmental temperatures on body temperature of aquatic-calling anurans. — J. Herpetol. 14: 347-352.

GerhardtH.C.HuberF. (2002). Acoustic communication in insects and frogs: common problems and diverse solutions. — University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL.

HamiltonW.J.Jr. (1948). The food and feeding behavior of the green frog, Rana clamitans (L.), in New York state. — Copeia: 203-207.

HauselbergerK.F.AlfordR.A. (2005). Effects of season and weather on calling in the Australian microhylid frogs Austrochaperina robusta and Cophixalus ornatus. — Herpetologica 61: 349-363.

HöbelG.GerhardtH.C. (2003). Reproductive character displacement in the communication system of green treefrogs (Hyla cinerea). — Evolution 57: 894-904.

HödlW. (1977). Call differences and calling site segregation in anuran species from Central Amazonian floating meadows. — Oecologia 28: 351-363.

HsuM.Y.KamY.C.FellersG.M. (2006). Temporal organization of an anuran acoustic community in a Taiwanese subtropical forest. — J. Zool. 269: 331-339.

IguaneK.KramsI.KramaT.BobkovaJ. (2008). White storks Ciconia ciconia eavesdrop on mating calls of moor frogs Rana arvalis. — J. Avian Biol. 39: 229-232.

JaegerR.G. (1976). A possible prey-call window in anuran auditory perception. — Copeia: 833-834.

LimaS.L.BednekoffP.A. (1999). Temporal variation in danger drives antipredator behaviour: the predation risk allocation hypothesis. — Am. Nat. 153: 649-659.

LutherD.A. (2009). The influence of the acoustic community on songs of birds in a neotropical rain forest. — Behav. Ecol. 20: 864.

McListerJ.D. (2001). Physical factors affecting the cost and efficiency of sound production in the treefrog Hyla versicolor. — J. Exp. Biol. 204: 69-80.

McListerJ.D.StevensE.D.BogartJ.P. (1995). Comparative contractile dynamics of calling and locomotor muscles in three hylid frogs. — J. Exp. Biol. 198: 1527-1538.

NavasC.A. (1996). Implications of microhabitat selection and patterns of activity on the thermal ecology of high elevation neotropical anurans. — Oecologia 108: 617-626.

NavasC.A.AraújoC. (2000). The use of agar models to study amphibian thermal ecology. — J. Herpetol. 34: 330-334.

PtacekM.B. (1992). Calling sites used by male gray treefrogs, Hyla versicolor and Hyla chrysoscelis, in sympatry and allopatry in Missouri. — Herpetologica 48: 373-382.

SchmidtA.K.RömerH.RiedeK. (2013). Spectral niche segregation and community organization in a tropical cricket assemblage. — Behav. Ecol. 24: 470-480.

SchwartzJ.J.BeeM.A.TannerS.D. (2000). A behavioral and neurobiological study of the responses of gray treefrogs, Hyla versicolor to the calls of a predator, Rana catesbeiana. — Herpetologica 56: 27-37.

SinschU. (1984). Thermal influences on the habitat preference and the diurnal activity in three European Rana species. — Oecologia 64: 125-131.

StewartM.M.SandisonP. (1972). Comparative food habits of sympatric mink frogs, bullfrogs, and green frogs. — J. Herpetol. 6: 241-244.

TuttleM.D.RyanM.J. (1981). Bat predation and the evolution of frog vocalizations in the neotropics. — Science 214: 677-678.

TuttleM.D.TaftL.K.RyanM.J. (1981). Acoustical location of calling frogs by philander opossums. — Biotropica 13: 233-234.

WellsK.D. (2001). The energetics of calling in frogs. — In: Anuran communication ( RyanM.J., ed.). Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC, p.  45-60.

WernerE.E.GaryA.W.McPeekM.A. (1995). Diet composition in postmetamorphic bullfrogs and green frogs: implications for interspecific predation and competition. — J. Herpetol. 29: 600-607.

ZukM.KolluruG.R. (1998). Exploitation of sexual signals by predators and parasitoids. — Q. Rev. Biol. 73: 415-438.


  • The proportion of grey treefrog males that called from terrestrial perches on each of the 8 observation nights. Note that on May 26, when air temperature was particularly low (see Figure 2d), the few grey treefrog males that did call all chose aquatic calling sites. The numbers on top of the chart denote sample size.

    View in gallery
  • Ambient air and water temperature, and their relation with frog body temperature during the study period. (a) Relationship between air and water temperature at locations frogs were observed calling. (b) Relationship between water temperature and frog body temperature in the cases where frogs were found calling in water. (c) Relationship between air temperature and frog body temperature in the cases frogs were found calling on terrestrial perches. (d) Body temperature (mean ± SD) of calling grey treefrog males on 8 observation nights, shown relative to the associated air (solid line) and water temperatures (dashed line). The numbers on top of the chart denote sample size. Note that early in the breeding season night-time air temperature was much lower than water temperature, while later in the season air temperature tended to be above water temperature.

    View in gallery
  • Calling activity of grey treefrogs (Hyla versicolor), spring peepers (Pseudacris crucifer) and bullfrogs/green frogs (Lithobates catesbeiana/L. clamitans) during the observation period. Since bullfrogs/green frogs became active at roughly the same time, and both prey on grey treefrogs, we lumped their activity data for this figure. Data on calling activity were obtained from the long-term recorders stationed at the pond.

    View in gallery
  • Perch site selection and calling activity of grey treefrogs during perch choice trials. (a) Grey treefrog males did not have a general preference for terrestrial perches, but choose them only when the air was warmer than the water; this choice was similar whether a predator was present (filled symbols) or absent (open symbols); when air and water temperature were the same, half the frogs choose terrestrial and half choose aquatic perches. (b) The majority of grey treefrog males started to call during the trials in which no predator was present (open symbols), while males largely refrained from calling when a predator was present (filled symbols). (c, d) The general patterns of perch selection (terrestrial when air is warmer than water) and calling activity (more males calling when predator is absent) were not affected by the absolute temperature values at which frogs were tested.

    View in gallery


Content Metrics

Content Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 10 10 5
Full Text Views 2 2 2
PDF Downloads 0 0 0
EPUB Downloads 0 0 0