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Study: female frogs pretend to ‘croak’ to ward off male advances

(Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – Avoiding eye contact or wearing a fake wedding ring may be common tactics in avoiding unwanted attention by the opposite sex for humans, but other creatures make more dramatic efforts.

Frogs know how to croak, in more ways than one according to scientists.

A group of researchers have published findings of a study that found female European Common frogs go as far as faking their own deaths to avoid male advances.

The results were published this week in the journal Royal Society Open Science after collecting at least several dozen amphibians for observation. The researchers created the study to better understand mating behavior to broaden conservation efforts. The study related to previous theories of sexual selection wherein it is classically driven by female choice and male combat.

“Increased efforts by males (harassment, forced copulation, intimidation) to gain access to females could even negatively affect female survival and thus lead to reproductive failure for both individuals involved and even negatively affect female survival (ducks, frogs and toads, mammals,” wrote scientists Carolin Dittrich and Mark-Oliver Rödel.

The European Common frog has a short breeding season, described as explosive. The team gathered the studied subjects during one such time period from a pond in the spring season. Researchers noted several methods female frogs would use to ward off unwanted males including sounds, rolling, and faking death.

“We observed three female avoidance behaviors, namely ‘rotation’, ‘release call(s)’ and tonic immobility (death feigning),” the authors explained.

The scientists detailed witnessing more than 80% of the females grasped by males rolled on their backs to avoid intercourse, which forced the males underwater when they would let go of the hold. The study also states that close to 1/3 of the females went motionless on their backs, limbs stretched as if they were dead. Those females would stay in the position for about two minutes after a male climbed on them.

Nearly half of the females successfully escaped advances of the opposite sex using the observed strategies, according to the research.