Rapid dynamic colour change is an intrasexual signal in a lek breeding frog (Litoria wilcoxii)
Bright colouration appearing in one sex only can be driven by components of sexual selection including female choice, male competition or mate recognition. Male Litoria wilcoxii undergo rapid colour change from brown to yellow during amplexus, however, the function, if any, is unknown. We tested possible behavioural functions by observing breeding aggregations and behavioural responses (colour change, movement, call and amplexus duration) to varying stimuli (including model male and female frogs). We also examined whether colour change was a by-product of hormone release by comparing spermatic urine of frogs injected with epinephrine (colour change hormone) and hCG (triggers spermiation). Finally, the predation cost of being bright yellow was examined by placing frog models (yellow and brown) in the field and measuring predator attack rate. The behavioural responses of males to model females, brown/brown models (female with amplexing brown male), and brown/yellow models (female with amplexing yellow male), were similar to reactions towards real females, with the important exception that males did not attempt amplexus with brown/yellow models. Epinephrine injections triggered colour change but not sperm release in male frogs, while hCG induced sperm release but not colour change. Attack rates were low in predation trials with no difference in attack rates between yellow and brown models observed. Our study presents a novel function for rapid dynamic colour change as an intrasexual signal during amplexus that could avert sperm competition and displacement by other males.
Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology