This little piggyback killed my rival

Published May 10, 2020

If a tree frog calls out for a mate, a preda­tor is just as like­ly to hear it as the lit­tle hot­tie in the oth­er tree. So what’s a lone­ly frog to do? He’ll pig­gy­back his calls — time them to just bare­ly over­lap with anoth­er frog’s.

By over­lap­ping their calls at near­ly per­fect syn­chrony with neigh­bor­ing treefrogs, an audi­to­ry illu­sion takes effect and those ene­mies are more attract­ed to the lead­ing call, leav­ing the oth­er frogs to find mates with­out risk­ing their life.

How so? It’s called the ‘Precedence Effect.’ If you hear two sounds in quick suc­ces­sion, your brain will tell you that they’re both com­ing from the same loca­tion — the loca­tion of the first sound. So not only is he call­ing to a mate, he’s direct­ing preda­tors to his com­pe­ti­tion. Sneaky!

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