Science

Lungs like noise-cancelling headphones help frogs hear mates, study shows

Scientists believe they have tuned into how female frogs find suitors from the same species amid the noise of other frogs.

How does a frog listen out for mates among all the croaking from other species? They use their lungs to filter noises, according to new research.

Scientists found that female, green treefrogs inflated their lungs, so they can dampen out sounds and fine tune those from the right type of potential male suitors.

This causes a reduction in their eardrum’s sensitivity to environmental noise in a specific frequency range, keeping the squeals and croaks relevant to them intact.

“In essence, the lungs cancel the eardrum’s response to noise, particularly some of the noise encountered in a cacophonous breeding chorus, where the males of multiple other species also call simultaneously,” said Professor Norman Lee, from St Olaf College in Minnesota, who led the study.

“We believe the physical mechanism by which this occurs is similar in principle to how noise-canceling headphones work.”

Scientists noticed that the female frogs in their research were able to pick up on frequencies between the two spectral peaks present in the mating calls of frogs of the same species.

The scientists did this by using a laser vibration sensor to see how their eardrums reacted.

The research is published in the Current Biology journal.

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Science