Interactions of Multisensory Components Perceptually Rescue Túngara Frog Mating Signals

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Science  19 Jul 2013:
Vol. 341, Issue 6143, pp. 273-274
DOI: 10.1126/science.1237113

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Romancing the Frog

In túngara frogs, auditory and visual components of mate calling do not naturally occur together. Taylor and Ryan (p. 273, published online 6 June) now show that two signals that are unattractive to female frogs when presented alone become highly attractive when presented together. In a kind of “perceptual rescue,” the unique combination of two signals increased the receiver's interest in the previously uninteresting signals.


Sexual signals are often complex and perceived by multiple senses. How animals integrate signal components across sensory modalities can influence signal evolution. Here we show that two relatively unattractive signals that are perceived acoustically and visually can be combined in a pattern to form a signal that is attractive to female túngara frogs. Such unanticipated perceptual effects suggest that the evolution of complex signals can occur by alteration of the relationships among already-existing traits.

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