Monomorphic call structure and dimorphic vocal phenology in a sex-role reversed frog

José M. Serrano, Mario Penna, Andrés Valenzuela-Sánchez, Marco A. Mendez, Claudio Azat

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Abstract: Sexual signals in different animals are expected to be dimorphic when both sexes signal, but cases of monomorphism are known to occur, and we lack a clear understanding about the factors that modulate the level of sexual dimorphism in signals. In this study, we evaluated the hypothesis that the lack of dimorphism in sexual signals might evolve in systems experiencing temporal changing conditions of intra-sexual competition. We used the Darwin’s frog (Rhinoderma darwinii), a species with paternal care, as a model. We compared advertisement calls and examined call distinctiveness among females, pregnant and non-pregnant males in a wild population from Chiloé island, Chile. We also recorded the vocal activity of both sexes along the reproductive season. Additionally, we compared the acoustic properties of their advertisement calls in terms of sexual distinctiveness and individual repeatability. We found that the proportion of females and pregnant males vocalizing changed over time following distinct patterns. Females produced calls with lower dominant frequency and longer note and call durations than males, and these acoustic differences were related to body size differences between sexes, but only dominant frequency contributed significantly to the distinctiveness of calls between sexes. Also, individual repeatability was high, indicating that calling can be relevant for social recognition. Overall, our results suggest that mutual selective pressures could be involved in the limited dimorphism of the advertisement calls in Darwin’s frogs, as the sex ratio of individuals vocalizing (i.e. females vs. reproductive males) is reversed along the breeding period. Significance statement: Whether sexually monomorphic signals are evidence of adaptive mutual choice or a by-product of genetic constraints on females remains as an open question. In species with exclusive parental care of males, it would be expected that males and females alternate their reproductive availability while performing slightly differentiated sexual signals. Using acoustic recordings and capture-recapture data of the Darwin’s frog, we found that advertisement calls of this frog tend to be monomorphic. Interestingly, the males performing parental care were calling actively and the population had a clear bias in the number of males. Males and females of this endangered frog called actively, but the vocalization rate of each sex peaked at different times along the breeding season. These findings open new questions about the mechanisms of sexual recognition under restricted signal dimorphism.

Original languageEnglish
Article number127
JournalBehavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2020


  • Anuran communication
  • Male pregnancy
  • Rhinoderma darwinii
  • Sexual monomorphism
  • Sexual role reversal
  • Vocal phenology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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