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Intense interspecific amplexus of woodfrogs, Lithobates sylvaticus, on a tiger salamander, Ambystoma tigrinum

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Amphibians are one of the most species‐rich vertebrate taxa, with diverse and complex reproductive behaviors. Even though mate recognition plays a vital role in reproductive success, unusual amplexus with non‐suitable mates (misdirected amplexus) have been reported to occur in the wild. Misdirected amplexus may decrease fitness thus likely having ecological and evolutionary consequences and their frequency might increase with human‐induced changes in habitat. However, it is still unclear what promotes this unusual behavior and how widespread it is at spatial and phylogenetic scales. To fill this gap, we compiled a global database of misdirected amplexus events from literature and personal observations, with detailed information on environmental, geographical and behavioral aspects of reported events. Furthermore, we discuss its spatial, temporal and phylogenetic patterns. We provide a data set of 378 misdirected amplexus events for 156 amplectant species distributed across 69 genera and 18 families distributed in 52 countries in all continents except Antarctica. We collected data published or collected during the last 100 years, from 1920 to 2020, with information on the hour, month and year of the misdirected amplexus events. We recorded a total of 282 interspecific amplexus, 46 necrophiliac amplexus and 50 amplexus with objects or non‐amphibian species, with USA and Brazil being the countries with the highest number of records. Misdirected amplexus did not occur equally in all zoogeographical realms, with most events occurring in the Neotropical and Nearctic realms. Interspecific amplexus was especially represented in the Neotropical and Mediterranean regions. Most events involved three species‐rich globally‐distributed families (Bufonidae, Ranidae and Hylidae) but misdirected amplexus was widespread in the phylogeny. We provide a comprehensive data set of misdirected amplexus for anurans, with our results showing that it occurs extensively in the wild and across the globe. This data set provides a baseline for understanding misdirected amplexus and their spatial, temporal and phylogenetic patterns. Likewise, this data set offers a baseline to test the environmental, ecological and ethological drivers behind this reproductive behavior and we encourage researchers to report detailed observations of misdirected amplexus to better understand this process and its potential costs at the individual and population levels. The data are not copyright restricted; this data paper should be cited when data are used for publication, and the authors would appreciate being notified of research projects or teaching purposes when these data are used.
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There are many observations of unusual amplexus in anurans (e.g., interspecific, holding of artificial objects, and with dead specimen - both inter and intra specific, etc.) (Waterstrat et al., 2008; Mollov et al., 2010; Sodre et al., 2014; Müller, 2016; Shin et al., 2020). The price for such behaviour, however, is a waste of resources: time, energy and reproductive material, and in turn this can lead to death from exhaustion, reproductive failures and even affect the population dynamics (Pearl et al., 2005; Hochkirch et al., 2007; Gröning and Hochkirch, 2008; D’Amore et al., 2009; Álvarez, 2011). In the present study, we report on a case of interspecific amplexus between two sympatric species, the Agile frog (Rana dalmatina Fitzinger in Bonaparte, 1838) and the Fire salamander (Salamandra salamandra Linnaeus, 1758). Records of sexual interaction between anurans and urodelans are rare (Moldowan et al., 2013; Crane and Ferrari, 2015) and there is only one report of amplexus between R. dalmatina and S. salamandra (Simović et al., 2014).
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Introduced American bullfrogs (Rana catesbeiana) come in contact with native amphibians on four continents and are well established in lowlands of western North America. To date, research on the effects of introduced bullfrogs on native frogs has focused on competition and predation, and is based largely on larval interactions. We present observations of interspecific amplexus between bullfrogs and two native ranid frogs (R. aurora and R. pretiosa) from six sites across the Pacific Northwest that imply that this interaction is more widespread than currently recognized. Our observations indicate that R. catesbeiana juveniles and subadults in this region are of appropriate size to elicit marked amplectic responses from males of both native species. Our literature review suggests that greater opportunity may exist for pairings between R. catesbeiana and native R. aurora or R. pretiosa than among syntopic native ranids in western North America. We hypothesize that interspecific amplexus with introduced R. catesbeiana could result in reproductive interference with negative demographic consequences in native ranid populations that have been reduced or altered by other stressors.
Life history notes: Rana sylvatica (wood frog). Reproductive mortality
  • P Phillips
  • M Wade
Phillips, P., Wade, M. (1990): Life history notes: Rana sylvatica (wood frog). Reproductive mortality. Herpetological Review 21: 59.