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Anim Behav. 2010 Sep 1;80(3):509-515.

An experimental test of noise-dependent voice amplitude regulation in Cope's grey treefrog (Hyla chrysoscelis).

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Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior, University of Minnesota - Twin Cities.


One strategy for coping with the constraints on acoustic signal reception posed by ambient noise is to signal louder as noise levels increase. Termed the 'Lombard effect', this reflexive behaviour is widespread among birds and mammals and occurs with a diversity of signal types, leading to the hypothesis that voice amplitude regulation represents a general vertebrate mechanism for coping with environmental noise. Support for this evolutionary hypothesis, however, remains limited due to a lack of studies in taxa other than birds and mammals. Here, we report the results of an experimental test of the hypothesis that male grey treefrogs increase the amplitude of their advertisement calls in response to increasing levels of chorus-shaped noise. We recorded spontaneously produced calls in quiet and in the presence of noise broadcast at sound pressure levels ranging between 40 dB and 70 dB. While increasing noise levels induced predictable changes in call duration and rate, males did not regulate call amplitude. These results do not support the hypothesis that voice amplitude regulation is a generic vertebrate mechanism for coping with noise. We discuss the possibility that intense sexual selection and high levels of competition for mates in choruses place some frogs under strong selection to call consistently as loudly as possible.

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