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2019 Project Proposal

What determines mate choice in a Neotropical treefrog?

Justin Touchon (Biology)

Much research demonstrates that female vertebrate animals often choose their mates based on aspects of the advertisement call produced by males.  Amongst amphibians (amongst the best studied vertebrates), female frogs generally prefer males with lower frequency calls. These studies are conducted by recording the calls of various males, playing them back to females, and seeing which calls females gravitate towards. However, few studies actually give females the opportunity to actually mate with real live males, thereby testing if the choices that are made in response to isolated advertisement calls reflect the choices made when presented with live potential mates. In this URSI project, we will use a captive colony of pantless treefrogs (Dendropsophus ebraccatus) at Vassar College to 1) record the calls of many male frogs that vary in size and age and 2) expose females to pairs of competing live males or just their recorded advertisement calls, to see if female choices in response to calls are the same as their “real world” choices with actual potential mates.

Willingness and ability to work evenings (approximate schedule will be Monday-Friday, 12pm-4pm and 8pm-12am).  Familiarity and willingness to hand small animals (i.e. frogs). Ability to troubleshoot and problem solve. Ability and willingness to work as part of a team.

How should students express interest in this project?
In their application, students should describe 1) why they are interested in this project, 2) their career goals and 3) how working on this project will help them reach those goals. Students need not contact me directly to express their interest; I will contact students if selected for an interview.