Most of us have been in a similar situation: you’re out and about, dancing the night away with your best friends when you spot someone in the corner. That someone usually has a sleazy smile plastered all over his smug face, as he advances to the dancefloor, determined to impress you with the worst, I mean best, dance moves you’ve ever seen. It’s awkward, uncomfortable, and sometimes there is no way to avoid such unwanted behavior. Maybe we can learn from female frogs? A new study shows that they have figured out a way to escape such advances – they fake their own death. Well, that’s certainly a creative way!
New study shows that female frogs employ very unusual tactics to avoid male attention
Image credits: Elizabeth Spencer (not an actual photo)
As the warm weather rolls in, forests and ponds are filled with love songs sung by determined and proud males of the European common frog species. While it might seem like a romantic gesture – a serenade under the moonlight – sometimes lady frogs just want to have a quiet night in. Unfortunately, males often don’t take “no” for an answer and proceed to pursue females. When there’s nothing left to do, female frogs just drop dead so they’ll be left alone.
A recent study, published in Royal Society Open Science, titled “Drop dead! Female mate avoidance in an explosively breeding frog” unveiled the strategies employed by clever amphibians to avoid mating with overly eager males. During their mating season, which lasts from March to late June, male frogs aggressively pursue females. This can lead to injuries and even cause fatalities in the encounters known as “breeding balls”.
Luckily, mother nature gave females a little bonus and they evolved a unique skill called “tonic immobility”. They fake death by stretching their limbs outwards, feigning rigor mortis. That is enough to repel an eager male suitor, granting females some peace of mind.
Image credits: Shinta Kikuchi (not an actual photo)
Image credits: David Clode (not an actual photo)
Female frogs fake their own death so that males will leave them alone
Image credits: Zhang Kaiyv (not an actual photo)
Image credits: Jack Hamilton (not an actual photo)
The author of the study, evolutionary and behavioral ecologist Carolin Dittrich, shared insights on this phenomenon. Previously, it was presumed that females are passive and have no choice, but as it turns out, lady frogs have a strong voice. “Females in these dense breeding aggregations are not passive as previously thought,” Dittrich wrote. The study recorded a 25-female escape success using fake death strategy, proving its efficiency.
So if you’re going out this weekend, remember this clever trick – when some creep refuses to leave you alone, just drop on the floor, stretch out your limbs and stare at him without blinking. If it works for frogs, it can work for humans, I guess.
Image credits: Patrik Allmann
Females lay down and stretch out their limbs, imitating rigor mortis
Image credits: Simon Breau (not an actual photo)
Image credits: Henry Fournier (not an actual photo)
Faking death is not the only way female frogs avoid males. They also possess the ability to “turn away” from an undesirable partner and mimic male frog calls, scaring other ones away. After all, they have a right to choose their partner, someone perfect to sit with on a lily pad and watch the fireflies.
The parallels between lady frogs’ tactics and the daily experience of million women are striking. Ladies worldwide have found many creative ways to deter unwanted suitors and stay safe. There are countless stories online: from leaving muddy men’s shoes outside, to playing a male voice recording while taking a taxi late at night.
Unfortunately, in our modern society, violence against women is still a big issue. While it’s funny to joke about frogs faking death to avoid males, the reality is much scarier. 1 in 3 women will experience abuse in their lifetime, even wearing sensible clothes, staying in at night and employing every “helpful tip” that victim blamers use.
This technique repels overeager males who could potentially injure the female frog
Image credits: Austin Santaniello (not an actual photo)
Image credits: Jiri Plistil (not an actual photo)
Sometimes, a lady just wants to chill in a pond by herself, without overzealous admirers
Image credits: Jack Blueberry (not an actual photo)
Image credits: Georg Bommeli (not an actual photo)
Perhaps, “tonic immobility” is something human females should start using as well
Image credits: Chris F (not an actual photo)
Hopefully, in the upcoming years, horrifying statistics will shift as people get more educated on what consent is. Luckily, more and more men join this moment, stepping up when they see abuse, doing helpful things like walking further behind at night so that a woman won’t be scared she’s being followed, and most importantly, calling other guys out. Those guys do deserve to sit on a lily pad with their lovely mate and watch the fireflies.
For now, stay safe out there and memorize some helpful safety tips that can save your life. And next time a creep invades your personal space, remember the female frogs and their incredible tactic. As the saying goes – fake it till you make it!