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Task differences confound sex differences in receiver permissiveness in túngara frogs

By Ximena E. Bernal, A. Stanley Rand and Michael J. Ryan


In many mating systems, both sexes respond to the same sexual signal. In frogs, males typically call in response to advertisement calls, while females approach male calls in choosing a mate. The costs of signal detection errors are expected to differ between the sexes. Missed opportunities are costly for males because ignoring a signal results in failing to compete with rivals for mates, while their cost for misidentification is lower (time and energy displaying to the incorrect target). By contrast, for females, the cost of misidentification is high (mating with incorrect species or low-quality partner), while their cost for missed opportunity is lower because the operational sex ratio puts females at a premium. Consequently, females should be more selective in their response to signal variation than males. We report that presumed sexual differences in selectivity in túngara frogs (Physalaemus pustulosus) are task-specific rather than sex-specific. As predicted, male túngara frogs are less selective in their vocal responses than are females in their phonotactic responses. Males exhibiting phonotaxis to the same calls, however, are as selective as females, and are significantly more selective than when they respond vocally to the same calls. Our study shows that apparent differences between the sexes emerge from differences in the behaviours themselves and are not intrinsic to each sex. Analogous behavioural differences might confound sex differences in other systems; thus, we suggest consideration of the behavioural plasticity of sex as well as its stereotypy

Topics: Research Article
Publisher: The Royal Society
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Provided by: PubMed Central
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