How Traffic Is Drowning Out Frogs' Mating Calls

Mar 14, 2017

The Pacific chorus frogs’ call is ubiquitous in the Northwest. But the amphibians are having more and more trouble hearing themselves. Traffic is drowning them out.

Chances are you’ve heard the Pacific chorus frogs’ call before. Its classic “rib-bit” is featured in basically any movie that needs frog noise.

During mating season the chorus of “rib-bit” “rib-bit” “rib-bit” attracts the females.

“So if he’s got a nice, deep, sexy voice they’ll find him more attractive,” said Danielle Nelson, a doctoral student at Oregon State University.

She found that Pacific chorus frogs don’t adjust their “rib-bits” to the noise level around them.

She collected sound from around the Willamette Valley -- in wildlife refuges to feet away from I-5. The traffic noises were drowning out the frogs’ calls.

“We can learn a lot from listening to the habitat around us.," Nelson said. "If animals are able to communicate, they’re able to carry out the business of their everyday lives. And if they can’t communicate with one another, then that is completely disrupted.”

Nelson says the noise pollution could compound bigger problems amphibians face, like invasive species and habitat loss -- and concrete walls or hedges could help keep things quieter.

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