Vocal communication between male Xenopus laevis

Martha L. Tobias, Candace Barnard, Robert O'Hagan, Sam H. Horng, Masha Rand, Darcy B. Kelley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

71 Scopus citations


This study focuses on the role of male - male vocal communication in the reproductive repertoire of the South African clawed frog, Xenopus laevis. Six male and two female call types were recorded from native ponds in the environs of Cape Town, South Africa. These include all call types previously recorded in the laboratory as well as one previously unidentified male call: chirping. The amount of calling and the number of call types increased as the breeding season progressed. Laboratory recordings indicated that all six male call types were directed to males; three of these were directed to both sexes and three were directed exclusively to males. Both female call types were directed exclusively to males. The predominant call type, in both field and laboratory recordings, was the male advertisement call. Sexual state affected male vocal behaviour. Male pairs in which at least one male was sexually active (gonadotropin injected) produced all call types, whereas pairs of uninjected males rarely called. Some call types were strongly associated with a specific behaviour and others were not. Clasped males always growled and clasping males typically produced amplectant calls or chirps; males not engaged in clasping most frequently advertised. The amount of advertising produced by one male was profoundly affected by the presence of another male. Pairing two sexually active males resulted in suppression of advertisement calling in one; suppression was released when males were isolated after pairing. Vocal dominance was achieved even in the absence of physical contact (clasping). We suggest that X. laevis males gain a reproductive advantage by competing for advertisement privileges and by vocally suppressing neighbouring males.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)353-365
Number of pages13
JournalAnimal Behaviour
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2004


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