Do frogs have accents?

By AG Staff 31 August 2023
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Analysing the calls of nearly 700 frogs has given scientists new insights into frog communication.

Researchers from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) and the Australian Museum have discovered that banjo frogs have distinct “accents”, suggesting the amphibians adapt their vocalisations to suit local conditions.

In a behaviour that’s described in what’s known as “acoustic adaptation hypothesis”, banjo frogs altered the pitch and duration of advertisement calls so vocalisations would be most effectively heard over competing sounds – such as wind, water and other animal calls – or other environmental influences.

The discovery, published in the Journal of Zoology, used audio uploaded by citizen scientists to the FrogID app.

Citizen science data has allowed researchers to analyse frog calls on a much larger scale and in a shorter time frame. Image credit: Grace Gillard

“We had thousands of recordings of banjo frog calls at our fingertips,” says former UNSW honours student Grace Gillard.

“Using this data, we analysed nearly 700 banjo frog calls from…an area of more than 1.7 million square kilometres, from Tasmania to far north Queensland.”

This research debunks previous hypotheses that variations in animal calls are most strongly linked to habitat structure such as tree canopy cover.

Related: Citizen scientists huge help in creating Australian Frog Atlas: reveals true distributions of our frogs