Have you heard about the frogs that change colors during orgies? There are a few species of frogs who have a very special and unique strategy for breeding. They prefer to gather up in huge groups by the hundreds and even thousands. During the pandemonium, it is hard throughout all the ribbeting to distinguish between females and males.
Many of these frogs who prefer group sex tend to turn yellow throughout the mating season. Rayna Bell, who is a zoologist from the Smithsonian Institute, recently grouped up with Australian scientists to find out if traits like this really do turn up in pairs—and if this is the case, which one came before the other.
The Interesting Sex Lives of Frogs
These frogs who are using this means of reproduction present some very interesting challenges for those animals who are involved. Bell sees this jumble something like a dark nightclub—where no one really sees what is going on. “It gets a little chaotic,” says Bell. So are these color changes used to help males be more visible and stand out among the crowd?
Bell began studying how the genealogy of African reed frogs differed across various regions. She was not exactly studying why certain species of this frog are made up of females and males who have different colors, although people keep asking questions about this difference of sex throughout her research presentations. This was when a group of researchers in Australia let her know that they wanted to find out this fact. This is how the collaboration started. “I hope to meet them in person someday,” says Bell.
This research group did not wonder out into the wilderness to locate some colorful frogs available for this study. They cannot exactly count on natural selection, since preservatives will often cause amphibians to turn into a grayish color. They relied on prior observations, made trips to the library and collected lots of field notes. “We have articles going back hundreds of years that you can’t find on the internet,” says Bell. “The study extended beyond any of our individual expertise.”
Understanding the Frog Sex Life
The information has uncovered that frogs that are known to change color temporarily throughout the mating season happen to be more likely to join in sex crowds. The group also supported this connection using frog ancestry tests. They scoured through genetic history and discovered what exactly was first to evolve, this group mating strategy or this color change business. In the majority of species, the breeding method came before the temporary color adjustment.
This implies that the color change most likely evolved to make this breeding method more effective. In this circumstance, the males most likely are not attempting to lure females with flashy colors as much it is to probably cast a warning to other males of their species. This conclusion remains in the “probable hypothesis” mode, since researchers do not actually understand exactly how the vision system of this amphibian really works. “We have way more questions than answers at this point,” says Bell. “We don’t know if they can even see these differences.”
Understand that frogs do not and cannot change colors in a few seconds the way that chameleons do. Their bodies will fill themselves with hormones will spread throughout their skin. To have changes last for more than a couple of months, they have to make even more pigments.
Scientists do not really know why these frogs become yellow, but it could be the simplest transition for their frog skin to undergo or maybe is the best color to signal other frogs, or possibly both. It is just amazing how frogs turn colors during orgies.