How Frogs Block Unwanted Noise

An American green tree frog.

In a crowded room, it can be hard to pick out the one conversation you want to hear. This so-called “cocktail party problem” is one animals have to contend with, too, when a noisy landscape can obscure the calls of potential mates. American green tree frogs have a clever solution to the problem: inflating their lungs to dampen out other frog species’ calls.

This method works because frogs have a direct anatomical connection between their lungs and their eardrums. Researchers found that when these frogs inflate their lungs, there’s a pronounced drop in their sensitivity to sound in the 1.4 – 2.2 kHz frequency band. That frequency range falls between the green tree frog’s peak mating call frequencies, but it coincides with the frequencies of other frogs living in the same regions. So rather than using their lungs to make themselves louder, these clever amphibians use them to make other frogs quieter! (Image credit: B. Gratwicke; research credit: N. Lee et al.; via Physics Today)

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