Traffic noise affects colouration but not calls in the European treefrog (Hyla arborea)

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In terrestrial habitats, traffic noise is responsible for chronic noise exposure and impacts both signal detection and acoustic signal structure. Several species are known to adapt their call structures to cope with noise. However, compromised hearing affects more than acoustic communication, and noise should be consider as a stress factor that can also alter visual communication in the case of carotenoid-based signals. Here, we experimentally investigated the impact of traffic noise on the expression of secondary sexual signals in the European treefrog, Hyla arborea. Treefrogs use multimodal communication in the sexual selection process (mating calls and vocal sac colouration). We found that treefrogs seem unable to adjust their call structure. Nonetheless, males showed a significant decrease in colouration intensity. Our findings highlight for the first time the negative effect of traffic noise on colour signals. This suggests that anthropogenic noise could affect a wider range of species than previously thought.

Traffic noise affects colouration but not calls in the European treefrog (Hyla arborea)

in Behaviour

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Figures

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    Spectral overlap of the broadcast highway noise and the vocalisation of H. arborea. Spectral characteristics of traffic noise (in bold) completely overlap the first frequency peak (near 1800 Hz) of H. arborea call (in grey) while the second frequency peak (near 2800 Hz) is poorly embedded by noise. The linear spectrum were obtained using a 1024 points Hamming window (resolution 42 Hz).

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    Change in brightness of vocal sac due to traffic noise exposure in H. arborea after 10 days of traffic noise (experimental) versus normal frog chorus. Horizontal line: median value, box ends: upper and lower quartiles, whiskers: maximum and minimum values. Positive value indicates colour loss while negative values indicate males that grew darker during the experiment.

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