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Frogs have been struggling a bit in recent years. Their populations around the world have been declining for decades, and the reasons for their loss come from many fronts. Like many other animals, frogs are losing their homes and learning to live in a changing world.
Some researchers study animals to try to figure out how to save them. Others observe their behaviors and communication patterns in an attempt to understand the natural world. Sometimes, intentionally or otherwise, those intentions overlap.
Túngara - Frog - Native - Middle - Central
Consider the túngara frog, a tiny native of Middle, Central and South America. One of its main predators is frog-biting flies called midges, somewhat like mosquitoes, but smaller. Midges feed on the blood of the frogs and transmit disease.
Túngara frogs and flies likely have been interacting since the early Cretaceous period, more than 100 million years ago. Frogs and the flies that bite them originated in the same part of the world and have evolved together as they spread around the globe.
Frogs - Disease - Predation - Communication - Parasites
In these frogs, disease, predation and communication are intricately intertwined. Parasites are transmitted by midges, which find their way to frogs by "intercepting" their mating calls. Male frogs need to call to attract females, but in an ultimate catch-22, this also alerts predators of their whereabouts.
Ximena Bernal, an associate professor of biological sciences at Purdue University, has been studying this relationship for most of her professional life. She refers to the main line of her research as "eavesdropping."
Communicate - Predators - Systems - Irony - Lot
"We study how frogs communicate with one another, but also how their predators eavesdrop and exploit those systems," she said. "The irony is that a lot of times the calls that female frogs prefer, bats and flies prefer too. The poor males just can't win."
The foundation of Bernal's studies of these frogs and midges, also has helped develop novel trapping techniques to capture...
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