A Comparison of Auditory and Visual Cues in the Territorial Behavior of the Strawberry Poison Dart Frog (Oophaga pumilio)
- Lee Kats, Frank R. Seaver Chair in Natural Science, Pepperdine University
- Gary Bucciarelli, Ph. D. Candidate, UCLA Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology , University of California Los Angeles
Territorial behavior is readily present in many species of animals including the strawberry poison dart frog (Oophaga pumilio) and is often triggered by the presence of a competitor. During mating season, male O. pumilio compete for perches that allow them to call to attract a female. These males will defend their territory from competitors through prolonged calling bouts and physical contact. The identification and initiation between competing male O. pumilio are largely considered to be both auditory and visual. The purpose of this study is to determine which of these is a stronger cue in eliciting male territorial behavior. Using recorded male calls and frog models from O. pumilio and a sympatric control species (Dendrobates auratus), call and relative approach distance metrics were recorded for adult O. pumilio. Statistical analysis revealed that relative change in distance from model-speaker complex, call time, and relative call time all suggested a significant difference among groups broken down by call heard, whereas there was no significant difference based upon model used. The data suggest that although visual cues may play some role in determination of competitors, O. pumilio males are capable of recognizing the distinct call of conspecifics and more readily use phonotaxis to locate another male encroaching upon his territory. The use of fixed models suggests that the conspicuousness of O. pumilio is not a strong cue in identification of threats, but future studies should investigate and compare to other visual cues such as throat pouch expansion and contraction.