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Type of publication: Journal Article
Type of document: Full Paper

Year: 2019

Authors: Stückler, S; Ringler, M; Pasukonis, A; Weinlein, S; Hödl, W; Ringler, E

Title: Spatio-Temporal Characteristics of the Prolonged Courtship in Brilliant-Thighed Poison Frogs, Allobates femoralis.

Source: Herpetologica. 2019; 75(4): 268-279.

Authors Vetmeduni Vienna:

Ringler Eva Maria

Vetmed Research Units
Messerli Research Institute, Comparative Cognition

Project(s): Behavioural flexibility in anuran amphibians

Fitness in complex life cycles

Prolonged and complex courtship behaviors, involving tactile, acoustic, and visual signals, are common in Neotropical poison frogs (Dendrobatidae). Courtship is an important precursor to mating, but courtship components vary across species. In Brilliant-Thighed Poison Frogs (Allobates femorlis [Boulanger 1883]), males guide females to oviposition sites in a so-called "courtship march." The courtship duration in A. femorlis is among the longest known in poison frogs. To gain insights into the functions of courtship, we observed 29 courtship events in an A. femorlis population in French Guiana. In addition, we observed multiple courtships of 7 males to assess intra- and interindividual variations in courtship behavior. We recorded temporal, spatial, and behavioral characteristics of courtship and searched for previously deposited clutches in the males' territories. Courtships started in the afternoon and ended on the following morning. During courtship, pairs moved an average of 19 m within an area of about 6 m(2). Twenty-seven out of 29 courtships (93.1%) resulted in successful oviposition, indicating that females rarely reject males once engaged in courtship. Contrary to previous studies of A. femoralis, the spatial and temporal extent of the courtship march did not correlate with the size of a male's territory. Our results indicate that females do not evaluate male quality during courtship but might need an extended courtship phase to verify territory ownership of the courting male and to stimulate ovulation. The prolonged courtship might also be beneficial for spatial learning by females, allowing them to find clutches again in cases of mate loss. Temporal and spatial characteristics vary considerably within and among individuals, and males do not use the same routes in consecutive courtships. However, they probably show females previous clutches. Several courtship traits in our study population differ from A. femoralis courtship previously described from Peru and Brazil, indicating that dendrobatid courtship is variable among populations.

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