Good Mates = True Love? Or Just Strong Mates, Big Mates and Noisy Mates

European Tree Frog         Creative Commons – Christian Fischer

Good mates are often judged as being “good” because they are more attractive because of strength as judged by size or the noise that they produce. This has nothing to do with logical choice or that advice that they were given at the proverbial maternal knee, but is simply hormone driven.

The problem is not all mates are what they may seem. In the animal world, the prospective mate isn’t brought home to be introduced to disapproving parents. It’s all out there to play for. So are many of the females out there fooled by male subterfuge?

This question of ‘true’ love was asked by Brepson et al from the U of Lyon and is in the online edition of Animal Behaviour (1). The team decided to put the question to the diminutive European Treefrog. At one and a half inches long it doesn’t take up much space in the lab, but it can make quiet a decent croak when it is in the mood for love.

Male frogs, the European Treefrog included, announce their availability to the female population by spending the night hours croaking. Large males with a booming croak are the focus of adoration by the females who eschew the weaker, shaky croaks of the little fellas.

The team of course asked “does size matter?” to a female frog. Deeper louder voices of course, but is that the only criterion for a good mate? What about being well fed and ready to go?

A corner of the lab was turned into a frog only mating arena, but the nasty trick was to install a loudspeaker which could play macho male croaks. So what’s a little frog to do? Frog or not, what do you expect of a Latin lover? They will cheat of course if they have to. The spirit of Casanova is not dead. They will sidle up to be close to the big boy, but strike faster and stealthier as soon as the opportunity arises so the love–lorn female is unaware that the big booming voice wasn’t their young lover’s.

The finer points of gastronomy being of great importance in that area of the world, the question popped up as to how did being well fed affect cheating behavior, less or more? So the next batch of frogs had their stomachs extensively pumped and half of the batch were then stuffed full of cordon blue bottles and crickets. It had no effect on the tendency to cheat to get laid.

Clearly the way to a frog's heart is not through its stomach.


Leave a Reply