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Horm Behav. 2000 Aug;38(1):67-74.

Evidence for a mate-attracting chemosignal in the dwarf African clawed frog Hymenochirus.

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Department of Biological Sciences, University of the Pacific, Stockton, California 95211, USA.


Many male frogs and toads possess sexually dimorphic skin glands (breeding glands). However, in most anuran species, the functional significance of the glands is unknown. Here we show that the breeding glands of male dwarf African clawed frogs (Hymenochirus sp. ) release a mate-attractant chemosignal. The mate-attractant activity was assessed using a two-choice aquatic Y-maze. Female Hymenochirus were allowed to choose between different treatment waters (e.g., plain water and water housing males) in the upstream arms of the maze, and the females' movements were monitored by computer-linked motion sensors. Females showed a positive chemotaxis to water housing males and to water containing homogenized breeding glands. Females showed no reaction to water housing conspecific females or to water housing breeding gland-ablated males. Additional choice tests demonstrated that females were more attracted to water housing males than to water housing females and to water containing homogenized breeding glands than to water housing breeding gland-ablated males. Males in the maze showed no response to water housing either females or other males, indicating that the attractant is specific for females and is therefore neither a species aggregation signal nor a food-related attractant. These results represent the first experimental demonstration of a mate-attractant function for anuran breeding glands. Because many anuran species possess breeding glands, these results suggest that pheromonal communication could be more widespread among frogs and toads than previously believed.

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