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Silence is sexy: Soundscape complexity alters mate choice in túngara frogs

Cite this dataset

Coss, Derek; Hunter, Kimberly; Taylor, Ryan (2020). Silence is sexy: Soundscape complexity alters mate choice in túngara frogs [Dataset]. Dryad.


Many animals acoustically communicate in large aggregations, producing biotic soundscapes. In turn, these natural soundscapes can influence the efficacy of animal communication, yet little is known about how variation in soundscape interferes with animals that communicate acoustically. We quantified this variation by analyzing natural soundscapes with the mid-frequency cover index and by measuring the frequency ranges and call rates of the most common acoustically communicating species. We then tested female mate choice in the túngara frog (Physalaemus pustulosus) in varying types of background chorus noise. We broadcast two natural túngara frog calls as a stimulus and altered the densities (duty cycles) of natural calls from conspecifics and heterospecifics to form the different types of chorus noise. During both conspecific and heterospecific chorus noise treatments, females demonstrated similar preferences for advertisement calls at low and mid noise densities but failed to express a preference in the presence of high noise density. Our data also suggest that nights with high densities of chorus noise from conspecifics and heterospecifics are common in some breeding ponds, and on nights with high noise density, the soundscape plays an important role diminishing the accuracy of female decision-making.


Soundscape data was collected in Panama in 2018 and 2019 at two sites: Santa Cruz and Ocelot ponds. Frog choruses were recorded using Song Meter SM3s. Recordings were largely processed by inputting files into R and running QUT Ecoacoustics Analysis Programs (Towsey M, Truskinger A, Cottman-Fields M, Roe P. 2018. Ecoacoustics Audio Analysis Software v18.03.0.41 (Version v18.03.0.41). Zenodo.

Behavioral data was collected by running phonotaxis experiments in Panama in 2019. Data were recorded during trials, and videos of trials were saved for review.

Usage notes

Due to the nature of sound and video files taking up a lot of storage space, these have not been included. However, they are available upon request from the first author.


Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Award: 34493602

Salisbury University, Award: Building Research Excellence Grant; Graduate Research and Presentation Grant