A girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do.
Leave Her Alone
Some female frogs in Europe are taking ghosting to a whole new level.
A new study conducted by researchers at Berlin's Natural History Museum has found that female European common frogs often engage in "tonic immobility" — more commonly referred to as the act of "playing dead" — in order to fend off unwanted male suitors.
Per the study, which was published today in the journal Royal Society Open Science, European common frogs are "explosive" breeders, meaning that their mating season is quite short and competition to breed is intense. The male attention during these periods can become overwhelming for the female frogs, and can even turn deadly; the females are at risk of getting fatally trapped inside "mating balls," which occurs when too many male frogs cling to them at once.
But as it turns out, according to the research, the female froggos do have some tools of self-defense — and as the researchers wrote in the study, "may not be as passive and helpless" to the horrors of the mating season "as previously thought." Indeed, the researchers say they have a number of techniques to evade unwanted or overwhelming suitors, feigning death included.
Per the study, the deathly display is pretty convincing, as the females' joints stiffen and their legs and arms stretch out as they might in true rigor mortis.
In addition to playing dead, the researchers say that the amphibians' other avoidance tactics include rotating around in an attempt to shake amorous males off and — another favorite — essentially just shouting at their harassers in tones similar to the male frogs' calls. Interestingly, the latter behavior was only observed after a female had laid eggs, and thus, as the study authors write, is likely a way for the ladies to signal "non-receptivity."
What makes the playing dead strategy particularly fascinating, however, is that the behavior "has only been observed in a handful of species and only in one other amphibian," according to the research. And as Caroline Dittrich, the study's lead author, told ABC News, it's a behavior that's usually reserved for avoiding predators — and not as a means to deter mate-seeking males.
But a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do, especially when it comes to unwanted men. And female European common frogs, it seems, have along the way picked up a few tricks for keeping horny toads away.
More on frogs: Something Cool Is Happening to the Frogs at Chernobyl
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