Science News

Frogs Croak With an Accent

Sun, 16th Nov 2003

Part of the show Left and Right Handedness

I expect to most people listening to the show tonight, the croak of one frog probably sounds much the same as another. But apparently at least one species of frog has developed a regional accent in its mating calls. The finding was made by Julia Wycherley during a project to return an extinct species of pool frog to the wetlands of East Anglia. She spent a long time listening to frog calls and was convinced that she could hear subtle differences in their mating sounds. So she made recordings of the croaks and analysed the length, amplitude and volume of different calls, and found three distinct accents from Iberia, Italy and the Balkans, which is where the species was separated into distinct colonies during the last ice age. While the species was subdivided, the three main colonies seem to have begun to diverge and develop different calls. Fossil evidence has shown that the extinct East Anglian pool frogs originally came from the Balkans, so English Nature are now planning to acquire a population of Balkan frogs to try and re-establish the East Anglian population. Knowing about this subdivision of the pool frog populations from their calls means that it’s very important to re-introduce absolutely the right species to East Anglia otherwise there’s a risk that they won’t thrive or develop a self-sustaining community.

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