If You Come Any Closer, I’ll Blow Up

Jan 16, 2010 • News, Research

A report published recently in the Royal Society’s Biology Letters journal suggests that female cane toads inflate to prevent the male from being able to take hold and have their way with them.

It was widely believed that frogs and toads evolved this ability to inflate their bodies with air to appear larger and thus deflect predators.

But these new findings from the University of Sydney are changing that theory, suggesting instead that inflating the body is a mechanism related to choosing mates.

Dr. Benjamin Phillips from the University of Sydney, one of the scientists who took part in this study of female toads, explained in the paper that scientists had noticed previously that females inflated their bodies during male-male wrestling matches and assumed it was a response to the physical stress.

“Our work now shows that females can actually manipulate the outcome of male-male competition by inflating at the right moment,” Phillips told the BBC.

This could help ensure that the female gets to mate the the biggest, strongest male, which is likely to produce the healthiest offspring.

Image by Sparks Leigh. Information from the BBC, via Andy Sternberg.