Meet the ‘Semaphore’ Frog

Green-spotted rock frog (Staurois tuberilinguis)
Green-spotted rock frog (Staurois tuberilinguis)

I am lucky enough to spend my days in a frog communication lab, but everyone on the street knows how frogs communicate-by calling (if you didn’t know that, I’m really sorry about the sad life you’ve been living. Please go outside today and sit in the grass. Maybe quit your job. Also, let your parents know you’d be better off if you were raised by wolves because at least then you’d know the glory of nature).

In general, we think of frogs calling from the edge of the pond where the only competition is from other male frogs. It gets more interesting when you consider some frogs call near rushing water and the modifications they must make to their call. Calling is energetically costly and competing with rushing water can surely be exhausting. Some frogs have developed another mode in which to signal by using semaphore. Indeed, the frogs of the genus Staurois from Borneo still call, but the streams are so loud that they modify their call and employ this semaphore in the form of foot flagging.

In short, when times get tough for frogs and the party is just too loud to scream and get your friend’s attention, these guys wave their legs to make it happen. Thanks evolution and glad you could make it to the party.

Check out this video:

If you want to learn more, follow up with this paper from Walter Hödl.

“Meet the…” is a collaboration between The Finch & Pea and Nature Afield to bring Nature’s amazing creatures into your home.

Author: Heidi Kay Smith

Biology PhD student on the cusp of finishing and moving on to a postdoc in the behavioral ecology of amphibians. I blog to share my thoughts, ideas, and general feelings of awe of the natural world.

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