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Linking amphibian call structure to the environment: the interplay between phenotypic flexibility and individual attributes

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  • Lucía Ziegler
  • Matías Arim
  • Peter M. Narins

Abstract

The structure of the environment surrounding signal emission produces different patterns of degradation and attenuation. The expected adjustment of calls to ensure signal transmission in an environment was formalized in the acoustic adaptation hypothesis. Within this framework, most studies considered anuran calls as fixed attributes determined by local adaptations. However, variability in vocalizations as a product of phenotypic expression has also been reported. Empirical evidence supporting the association between environment and call structure has been inconsistent, particularly in anurans. Here, we identify a plausible causal structure connecting environment, individual attributes, and temporal and spectral adjustments as direct or indirect determinants of the observed variation in call attributes of the frog Hypsiboas pulchellus. For that purpose, we recorded the calls of 40 males in the field, together with vegetation density and other environmental descriptors of the calling site. Path analysis revealed a strong effect of habitat structure on the temporal parameters of the call, and an effect of site temperature conditioning the size of organisms calling at each site and thus indirectly affecting the dominant frequency of the call. Experimental habitat modification with a styrofoam enclosure yielded results consistent with field observations, highlighting the potential role of call flexibility on detected call patterns. Both, experimental and correlative results indicate the need to incorporate the so far poorly considered role of phenotypic plasticity in the complex connection between environmental structure and individual call attributes. Copyright 2011, Oxford University Press.

Suggested Citation

  • Lucía Ziegler & Matías Arim & Peter M. Narins, 2011. "Linking amphibian call structure to the environment: the interplay between phenotypic flexibility and individual attributes," Behavioral Ecology, International Society for Behavioral Ecology, vol. 22(3), pages 520-526.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:beheco:v:22:y:2011:i:3:p:520-526
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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1093/beheco/arr011
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