Female Frogs Play Dead to Avoid Mating With Males

Ladies, listen up. There’s a new way of avoiding men unlocked by a certain part of the animal kingdom: frogs. New research finds that female frogs will often play dead to avoid mating with males.

According to Dr. Carolin Dittrich, behavior ecologist at the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna, in some species of frogs, the females tend to play dead as a way to avoid mating with aggressive males. A typical position for the females during this ruse is laying on their sides and stretching their arms and legs stiffly away from the body.

Dittrich closely monitored mating patterns for this study. “I had one male and two females in a box, and I let them be there for an hour, undisturbed. And I saw in one video that the female appeared dead, so I got a bit worried that something happened,” she said.

Scientists have called the frogs playing dead “tonic immobility.” This is just one of the strategies that females use to avoid mating, along with rotating their bodies or letting out a call to tell males they’re not interested.

The reason these animals would rather avoid mating is because this species is also known as explosively breeding frogs. They have a very short mating season that sees male frogs get so aggressive that the females often fear for their lives.

“Usually, there’s more males than females in the breeding aggregation. That means that males are fighting to get access to the females. And sometimes, a lot of males can cling to one female, which leads to the drowning of the female,” Dittrich said.

She added: “It seems it’s not a conscious decision of feigning death – like, I don’t like this male, so I feign death or something like that – but more like a survival tactic or strategy. So the males — sometimes, they still cling to the females even if they feign death or are immobile. And sometimes, they let go.”