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Proc Biol Sci. 2007 Feb 22;274(1609):479-88.

Significance of temporal and spectral acoustic cues for sexual recognition in Xenopus laevis.

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Department of Biological Sciences, Columbia University, New York, NY 10027, USA.


As in many anurans, males of the totally aquatic species, Xenopus laevis, advertise their sexual receptivity using vocalizations. Unusually for anurans, X. laevis females also advertise producing a fertility call that results in courtship duets between partners. Although all X. laevis calls consist of repetitive click trains, male and female calls exhibit sex-specific acoustic features that might convey sexual identity. We tested the significance of the carrier frequency and the temporal pattern of calls using underwater playback experiments in which modified calls were used to evoke vocal responses in males. Since males respond differently to male and female calls, the modification of a key component of sexual identity in calls should change the male's response. We found that a female-like slow call rhythm triggers more vocal activity than a male-like fast rhythm. A call containing both a female-like temporal pattern and a female-like carrier frequency elicits higher levels of courtship display than either feature alone. In contrast, a male-like temporal pattern is sufficient to trigger typical male-male encounter vocalizations regardless of spectral cues. Thus, our evidence supports a role for temporal acoustic cues in sexual identity recognition and for spectral acoustic cues in conveying female attractiveness in X. laevis.

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