Female preferences for spectral call properties in the western genetic lineage of Cope's gray treefrog (Hyla chrysoscelis)

Katrina M. Schrode, Jessica L. Ward, Alejandro Vélez, Mark A. Bee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Female frogs discriminate among potential mates based on individual variation in male advertisement calls. While considerable data have accumulated allowing comparisons of female preference functions among species, we still lack fundamental knowledge about how and why the shapes of preference functions for particular call properties vary among populations within all but a few species. Here, we report results from a study aimed at describing female preference functions for spectral call properties in Cope's gray treefrog (Hyla chrysoscelis). Widespread throughout the eastern half of North America, Cope's gray treefrog is the diploid member of the cryptic diploid-tetraploid Hyla versicolor species complex, and its populations are divided into two distinct genetic lineages (eastern and western). In this study of a western lineage population, we recorded and analyzed the spectral properties of 1,000 advertisement calls from 50 males and conducted two-stimulus phonotaxis experiments to estimate a population-level preference function. Females preferred calls with average frequencies over calls with frequencies that were 2 or 3 semitones (1. 4 or 2. 1 standard deviations, respectively) lower than the population mean. We observed no behavioral discrimination between calls with average and higher-than-average frequencies. Preferences discriminating against low-frequency calls were weak and were abolished by attenuating the preferred average call by 3 dB. We discuss these results in light of previous studies of eastern lineage populations, geographic variation in female preference functions, and the potential adaptive value of discriminating against calls with low frequencies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1595-1606
Number of pages12
JournalBehavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2012

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgments We thank D. Bankwala, K. Bocklund, N. Buerkle, R. Carter, B. Chicoine, I. Fridman, J. Henly, M. Johnson, M. Kelly, J. Kleinschmidt, B. Linehan-Skillings, K. McGuire, A. Nelson, S. Peterson, A. Preston, and especially S. Tekmen for their help in collecting and testing frogs, and H.C. Gerhardt and S. Humfeld for providing unpublished data. Different aspects of this work was supported by the National Science Foundation (IOS0842759) and the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (5R01DC009582).


  • Character displacement
  • Communication
  • Geographic variation
  • Mate choice
  • Preference function
  • Spectral properties


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