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Are frog calls relatively difficult to locate by mammalian predators?


Frogs call in acoustically dense choruses to attract conspecific females. Their calls can potentially reveal their location to predators, many of which are mammals. However, frogs and mammals have very different acoustic receivers and mechanisms for determining sound source direction. We argue that frog calls may have been selected so that they are harder to locate with the direction-finding mechanisms of mammals. We focus on interaural time delay (ITD) estimation using delay-line coincidence detection (place code), and a binaural excitatory/inhibitory (E/I) ITD mechanism found in mammals with small heads (population code). We identify four “strategies” which frogs may employ to exploit the weaknesses of either mechanism. The first two strategies used by the frog confound delay estimation to increase direction ambiguity using highly periodic calls or narrowband calls. The third strategy relies on using short pulses. The E/I mechanism is susceptible to noise with sounds being pulled to the medial plane when signal-to-noise ratio is low. Together, these three strategies compromise both ongoing and onset determination of location using either mechanism. Finally, frogs call in dense choruses using various means for controlling synchrony, maintaining chorus tenure, and abruptly switching off calling, all of which serve to confound location finding. Of these strategies, only chorusing adversely impacts the localization performance of frogs’ acoustic receivers. We illustrate these strategies with an analysis of calls from three different frog species.

DOI: 10.1007/s00359-022-01594-7