Impact of Acoustic Interference on Mate Choice in Treefrogs

Document Type



We studied how certain patterns of acoustic overlap and signal dropout impact the attractiveness to females of male calls in the gray treefrog. A main question was whether females are able to compensate for masked or missing call segments by using a process analogous to "phonemic restoration" in humans. This is when the brain reconstructs masked segments of words. Methods: We captured female treefrogs in a pond and then offered them a choice of different kinds of computer-generated synthetic calls in an indoor testing chamber. Females indicated a mating preference by moving toward one of two speakers that were broadcasting the call alternatives. Results: We found that females do not employ phonemic restoration to "fill in" missing call segments. However, although call overlap reduces call attractiveness, if a sufficient percent of call elements are not acoustically degraded, females may ignore perceived call abnormalities. Implications: Our data indicate that these treefrogs may need to rely on behavioral strategies to reduce the harmful effects of acoustic interference.My mentor is planning experiments to investigate this possibility.

Information about the Student Author

Class of 2004, Major: Biology

Summary of Research Experience

This experience was extremely significant to me because of what I learned about animal communication and the hard work required to make a research project successfu. I found designing experiments with my mentor as we accumulated data especially stimulating. More than ever, I am enthusiastic about pursuing a career in science.

Dissemination of Results

Dr. Schwartz and I described our research on October 17th, 2003 at the Faculty Development Program (theme: Partnerships for Collaborative Learning). Dr. Schwartz and I presented our results at the annual meeting of the Acoustical Society of America in May, 2004 in New York City. Another Pace student, Jeffrey Lasker, was also a co-author.

Faculty Mentor

Joshua Schwartz Ph.D. Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences

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