Within-individual variation in bullfrog vocalizations: Implications for a vocally mediated social recognition system

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Acoustic signals provide a basis for social recognition in a wide range of animals. Few studies, however, have attempted to relate the patterns of individual variation in signals to behavioral discrimination thresholds used by receivers to discriminate among individuals. North American bullfrogs (Rana catesbeiana) discriminate among familiar and unfamiliar individuals based on individual variation in advertisement calls. The sources, patterns, and magnitudes of variation in eight acoustic properties of multiple-note advertisement calls were examined to understand how patterns of within-individual variation might either constrain, or provide additional cues for, vocal recognition. Six of eight acoustic properties exhibited significant note-to-note variation within multiple-note calls. Despite this source of within-individual variation, all call properties varied significantly among individuals, and multivariate analyses indicated that call notes were individually distinct. Fine-temporal and spectral call properties exhibited less within-individual variation compared to gross-temporal properties and contributed most toward statistically distinguishing among individuals. Among-individual differences in the patterns of within-individual variation in some properties suggest that within-individual variation could also function as a recognition cue. The distributions of among-individual and within-individual differences were used to generate hypotheses about the expected behavioral discrimination thresholds of receivers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3770-3781
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of the Acoustical Society of America
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2004


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