Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS
  High-Bandwidth Version
Search Evolution  
 
Click to return to the Evolution Home Page
darwin change extinction survival sex humans religion
Darwin    
   
The Mating Game

Introduction | Round 1 | Round 2 | Round 3 | Round 4 | Round 5 | Mating Gallery


Round 4

Meet the contestant:
Clarice, the eastern gray treefrog
(Hyla versicolor)

Host: Let's all welcome Clarice to The Mating Game. Clarice is a striking eastern gray treefrog from South Carolina, and she's here today, like all of our Mating Game contestants, in search of a compatible mate. Of course, the ultimate goal here on The Mating Game is reproductive success. And Clarice has been having bad luck in that department over the last couple of breeding seasons. Would you mind telling us about it, Clarice?

Clarice: Well, Larry, I guess it all boils down to species recognition, a really important process in gray treefrog reproduction. In the wetland where I live, there are dozens of frog species; there's even another species of gray treefrog that's nearly identical in every way to my own species. We both kind of look alike, even to each other! In fact, the only way we can tell each other apart is through our different courtship songs.

Host: And you've had trouble with this?

Clarice: Two seasons in a row now I've paired with a member of another species, the Cope's gray treefrog. And although I've been able to produce offspring from these matings, my tadpoles are sterile and will never be able to reproduce. Evolutionarily speaking, my genes have reached the end of the line!

Host: Well, Clarice, sources tell me you've been studying up on those courtship songs. Maybe today you'll be able to distinguish between the song of a male from your species and a male Cope's gray treefrog. So let's put your hard work to the test and see if you can find your dream mate right here on The Mating Game!

Behind each of the three curtains before you sits a different creature -- but only one of them is the male eastern treefrog you need for successful breeding! So listen carefully, and good luck!


The game:

Question 1:

How would you describe an ideal courtship?
 

Bachelor #1: 

You'd just appear before me, out of the darkness. And I know if I got you to come that close, you'd be convinced that I'm the one for you.

Bachelor #2: 

I like to court under the cover of darkness. It's terrifying enough to be out in the open at night, much less during the day.

Bachelor #3: 

Courtship can be so exciting. I actually get quite a rush being out in the open singing as loudly as I can. Sure, there are predators out there at night, but there are also receptive females!

Question 2:

How would you get my attention in the dark?
 

Bachelor #1: 

I've experimented with plenty of courtship songs -- with little success, I'm afraid. I usually fall back on the song I learned from the older frogs in my pond.

Bachelor #2: 

I've heard my courtship song described as a harsh, nasal "quank-quank-quank." Personally, I think that's a little unfair, but you can decide for yourself.

Bachelor #3: 

I always try to call as loudly as I can. Even though I know it's important to attract a mate of the right species, I still want to have as many females to choose from as possible.

Question 3:

If this were a talent show and I were the judge, what special talent would you want me to judge you by?
 

Bachelor #1: 

Great question! I would definitely want you to judge me on my ability to change the color and pattern of my skin relative to whatever setting I was in.

Bachelor #2: 

Like I said earlier, I'm basically nocturnal. I guess my special talent would be hiding so well that I make myself invisible during the day.

Bachelor #3: 

Oh, there's so much! Let's see ... There's my ability to change color to match my background. I can easily live and breed in ditches and pools that other species wouldn't be caught dead in. And, of course, I've already mentioned my loud and melodious songs.

The choice:

Host: What do you think, Clarice? I sure hope you've studied your calls well, because these guys all seem like the same frog to me. But I guess you're used to being in the dark about who's courting you, right, Clarice? Feel free to review the bachelors' responses and, when you're ready, click on a curtain to make your choice.

Well, audience, look who Clarice has chosen: Bachelor Number Three. It's a bold choice, but I'm sure I couldn't have done any better. I would have flipped a coin! Anyway, before we meet Clarice's choice, let's see who she passed up.


Meet the bachelors:

Host: Well, Clarice, I'm happy to say that you weren't duped by yet another Cope's gray treefrog. You managed to avoid Pat, despite the beautiful song he shared with us, not to mention the striking similarities between him and the other panelists. Honestly, Pat's probably not all that disappointed himself, given that mating with Clarice would be an unwise use of energy for him too. Pat, for your time, we'll be sending you home with a case of freeze-dried mealworms to get you through that next drought.

Come on out, Kevin. Look at Kevin's beautiful green skin! And that brilliant white stripe that extends half the length of his body. Wow! All right, before I embarrass him any further, I'll just tell you a little about him. From his color it's not hard to imagine why Kevin is called a green treefrog. He comes from the coastal plains of South Carolina, where he's been breeding successfully for three of his four years. Although Kevin's species can interbreed and produce healthy offspring with another species, the barking tree frog, he and Clarice couldn't possibly be successful. Their species are just too different. Thanks for your time, Kevin. We have a lovely parting gift for you: a case of freeze-dried mealworms to get you through that next drought.

Now, for your mystery date, Clarice. Come on out, Jeff! Jeff is the perfect match for Clarice. He's a gorgeous eastern gray tree frog -- about the greenest one I've ever seen, but as we've heard, Jeff's ability to match his environment in the wild is extraordinary. He's probably just a little mixed up with all these bright studio lights. Anyway, I'm so happy for the two of you! The Mating Game would like to send you both to Acapulco, Mexico. Now, we know it's far away from your homes, but we've been assured that there's no shortage of insects there this year. Best of luck to you both!

-> Go to Round 5

Introduction | Round 1 | Round 2 | Round 3 | Round 4 | Round 5 | Mating Gallery

  related web activities  
   
Is Love in Our DNA?
Did evolution shape your taste in a mate? Take our poll.
 
 
The Advantage of Sex
Why did sex evolve? The likely answers may surprise you.
 
 
Sex and the Single Guppy
Learn how exhibitionism has an evolutionary payoff.
 
   
  related topics  
   
  Adaptation and Natural Selection  
   
  Evolution of Diversity  
   
  Why Evolution Matters  
 
 
       
         
 
Videos Web Activities Site Guide About the Project FAQ Glossary Site Map Feedback Help Shop