The Loh Down On Science

Frog Song

A love song straight from your ... cells?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Singing the right song is only half the battle for a male tree frog wooing a female. The other half? Having the right number of chromosomes.

So say Carl Gerhardt and Mitch Tucker of the University of Missouri, who studied two very similar species of tree frogs: eastern grey frogs and Cope's grey frogs.

To the naked eye, they look exactly alike. Only difference? The number of chromosomes in their cells.

The eastern grey has 48--twice the number of the Cope's. And that difference can be heard in the frogs' love croaks.

Gerhardt and Tucker say more chromosomes mean larger cells--you need more space to pack 'em in! And bigger cells lead to a slower trill rate--that is, a frog that sings slower.

To prove this, female tree frogs were exposed to man-made frog calls. When released, the females hopped to the sounds from males whose chromosome numbers matched theirs.

I'm guessing it's true what they say: Different croaks for different amphibians.



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