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Only distance matters – non-choosy females in a poison frog population

Ivonne Meuche1*, Oscar Brusa1, K Eduard Linsenmair2, Alexander Keller3 and Heike Pröhl1

Author Affiliations

1 Institute of Zoology, University of Veterinary Medicine, Bünteweg 17d, 30559, Hannover, Germany

2 Department of Animal Ecology and Tropical Biology, Biozentrum, University of Würzburg, 97074, Würzburg, Germany

3 DNA Analytics Core Facility and Department of Animal Ecology and Tropical Biology, Biozentrum, University of Würzburg, 97074, Würzburg, Germany

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Frontiers in Zoology 2013, 10:29  doi:10.1186/1742-9994-10-29

Published: 20 May 2013

Abstract

Background

Females have often been shown to exhibit preferences for certain male traits. However, little is known about behavioural rules females use when searching for mates in their natural habitat. We investigated mate sampling tactics and related costs in the territorial strawberry poison frog (Oophaga pumilio) possessing a lek-like mating system, where both sequential and simultaneous sampling might occur. We continuously monitored the sampling pattern and behaviour of females during the complete period between two successive matings.

Results

We found no evidence that females compared males by visiting them. Instead females mated with the closest calling male irrespective of his acoustic and physical traits, and territory size. Playback experiments in the natural home ranges of receptive females revealed that tested females preferred the nearest speaker and did not discriminate between low and high call rates or dominant frequencies.

Conclusions

Our results suggest that females of O. pumilio prefer the closest calling male in the studied population. We hypothesize that the sampling tactic in this population is affected by 1) a strongly female biased sex ratio and 2) a low variance in traits of available males due to strong male-male competition, preventing low quality males from defending a territory and mating.