The Frog Queen from the Rain Forest, 02.02.2019

The Austrian newspaper Die Presse has described the research achievements of Eva Ringler, a zoologist at the unit of Comparative Cognition, Messerli Research Institute, in a full-page article on 2nd Feb. 2019. The 34 years-old scientist has devoted her research to poison frogs – amphibians of South America, of which some are the most poisonous species on the planet. In her research she is combining lab experiments – in the frog lab of the Biocenter of the University of Vienna and the MRI lab of the University of California in Los Angeles – with field studies on a river island in the neotropical forest of French Guyana.

Already some years ago she and her team, including her husband Max, has shown that the females of the species Allobates femoralis carry out the task of transporting the clutch to water ponds as soon as the male, which is usually doing the job, has disappeared. This form of behavioral flexibility has not been known before.

A more recent study revealed that these frogs show a selective clutch cannibalism, where males indiscriminately transport all clutches located inside their own territory to water bodies but become highly cannibalistic when taking over a new territory. Especially surprising was the finding that females show cannibalistic behavior as well, but this was most pronounced when the female had not recently produced an own clutch and the father of the foreign clutch was absent. The father’s presence at the clutch site/territory seem to be sufficient to reduce cannibalism by females, which suggests a prominent role of male territoriality for the evolution of male parental care.

Only a few days ago Eva received as first Austrian citizen the Christopher-Barnard award of the Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour.

Link to the paper: 1

Photo: Eva Ringler
A male of the neotropical frog Allobates femoralis (Photo: Eva Ringler)

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