TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — “Ghosting” is a common tactic for getting out of an unwanted relationship among humans. But among frogs, according to a recent study, females fake their own deaths to ward off the mating advances of aggressive males.
Research published on October 11 in the journal Royal Society Open Science showed that female frogs escape males by rotating their bodies, releasing calls, and faking their deaths. “During these mating events, several males cling to a female, which are mostly unable to get rid of the unwanted males,” the study’s authors wrote.
The stage five clingers can inadvertently kill a female frog if she can’t get rid of them. That’s why faking death—also known as tonic immobility—is likely a stress response to an immediate threat. It’s mainly interpreted as a defensive strategy against predators, the study noted.
Stress could trigger tonic immobility, which may be “a better option for a female than fighting her way out of the amplexus,” the findings showed. Tonic immobility is a widely used tactic among different species to avoid mating, reproductive cannibalism, and male harassment.
Researchers said that even in these aggressive mating situations, female frogs are less helpless than was previously assumed. In fact, it’s more common in smaller and younger female frogs. The study also found that smaller female frogs use all three tactics, having higher escape probabilities than bigger female frogs.