Breeding biology and the evolution of dynamic sexual dichromatism in frogs

R. C. Bell*, G. N. Webster, M. J. Whiting

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    33 Citations (Scopus)


    Dynamic sexual dichromatism is a temporary colour change between the sexes and has evolved independently in a wide range of anurans, many of which are explosive breeders wherein males physically compete for access to females. Behavioural studies in a few species indicate that dynamic dichromatism functions as a visual signal in large breeding aggregations; however, the prevalence of this trait and the social and environmental factors underlying its expression are poorly understood. We compiled a database of 178 anurans with dynamic dichromatism that include representatives from 15 families and subfamilies. Dynamic dichromatism is common in two of the three subfamilies of hylid treefrogs. Phylogenetic comparative analyses of 355 hylid species (of which 95 display dynamic dichromatism) reveal high transition rates between dynamic dichromatism, ontogenetic (permanent) dichromatism and monochromatism reflecting the high evolutionary lability of this trait. Correlated evolution in hylids between dynamic dichromatism and forming large breeding aggregations indicates that the evolution of large breeding aggregations precedes the evolution of dynamic dichromatism. Multivariate phylogenetic logistic regression recovers the interaction between biogeographic distribution and forming breeding aggregations as a significant predictor of dynamic dichromatism in hylids. Accounting for macroecological differences between temperate and tropical regions, such as seasonality and the availability of breeding sites, may improve our understanding of ecological contexts in which dynamic dichromatism is likely to arise in tropical lineages and why it is retained in some temperate species and lost in others.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)2104-2115
    Number of pages12
    JournalJournal of Evolutionary Biology
    Issue number12
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 2017


    • anuran
    • explosive breeding
    • Hylidae
    • lek breeding
    • sexual colour dimorphism
    • sexual selection


    Dive into the research topics of 'Breeding biology and the evolution of dynamic sexual dichromatism in frogs'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this