Climate change and frog calls: long-term correlations along a tropical altitudinal gradient

Peter M. Narins, Sebastiaan W. F. Meenderink

Abstract

Temperature affects nearly all biological processes, including acoustic signal production and reception. Here, we report on advertisement calls of the Puerto Rican coqui frog (Eleutherodactylus coqui) that were recorded along an altitudinal gradient and compared these with similar recordings along the same altitudinal gradient obtained 23 years earlier. We found that over this period, at any given elevation, calls exhibited both significant increases in pitch and shortening of their duration. All of the observed differences are consistent with a shift to higher elevations for the population, a well-known strategy for adapting to a rise in ambient temperature. Using independent temperature data over the same time period, we confirm a significant increase in temperature, the magnitude of which closely predicts the observed changes in the frogs’ calls. Physiological responses to long-term temperature rises include reduction in individual body size and concomitantly, population biomass. These can have potentially dire consequences, as coqui frogs form an integral component of the food web in the Puerto Rican rainforest.

  • Received February 17, 2014.
  • Accepted March 17, 2014.
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