Female Frogs Outsmarting Males? The Surprising Study That Has Everyone Talking

Ever felt like drastic measures are required to avoid some meaningful attention?

For female frogs, it is a reality. Some animals run, others blend into their environments, but not frogs. According to a recent study, female frogs fake their own death as an avoidance tactic.

Mating Between Frogs Is Far From Pretty

In a recent research article published in Royal Society Open Science, scientists have explored the behaviors of frogs when it comes to mating.

Following reports of a higher female mortality rate in toads and frogs, it became clear that the mating scene between these amphibians was far less romantic than what humans have come to see as normal.

Dr Carolin Dittrich, an academic researcher from the Museum für Naturkunde, alongside Dr Mark-Oliver Rödel, a scientist and researcher from the same location, worked together by observing a variety of European species of frogs over short time periods.

While their study was focused on the avoidance tactics of female frogs being released from a male’s mating, they also recognized that the increased stress on the females may also contribute to low fertility. 

Male Mating Dictated By Combat

Dr Dittrich and Dr Rödel found that the male experience of mating was directed by combat, whereupon they would use intimidation, harassment, and even forced copulation. The aggressive nature of the males can be a dangerous one for the females, particularly since the female frogs tend to be more uninterested in breeding.

And why wouldn’t they be? For an outnumbered female frog, the mating season can sometimes consist of multiple males clinging onto her, causing high stress and, in some cases, death.

The females, apparently tired of the process, have developed a few avoidance strategies.

Female Frogs Had Three Methods To Deter Mating

Observed through a webcam, the frogs were watched for one hour while males initiated mating practices. Quickly, it became apparent that there were three methods of avoidance that female frogs were initiating. Rotation, Release Calls and Tonic Immobility (feigning death).


As it sounds, rotation refers to the female frog rotating, often in water, when a male frog attaches to her. The movement is to provide discomfort to the male, hopefully discouraging mating.

It was noted that the male did try to counteract the rotation, using his hind legs, however, this was not always successful.

If a male was to succumb to the rotation, they would either have to detach from the female or drown. This method was most successful for smaller-sized female frogs, as the males appeared to struggle to hold on to her during the rotation. 

Release Calls

Release calls were observed multiple times by the researchers during their test. The call was described as being a ‘grunt’ and a ‘squeak’ and was the least effective of the deterrent tactics.

Similar to a human cry for help, this sound has also been observed by frogs in predatory distress.

Tonic Immobility (Feigned Death)

The most effective tactic (aside from using all three) was tonic immobility. While the animal kingdom is known for feigning death in the pursuit of a predator, using the tactic in a mating scenario is far less common.

The report recognizes that feigning death is, evolutionarily speaking, a “conserved defensive mechanism of the last resort.”

The report also says that tonic immobility was utilized by older and more experienced female frogs, while those who were younger showed a higher variation of avoidance strategies. Perhaps, like humans, it is the sort of thing that is learned through experience.

Ultimately, the mating season can be an overwhelming and dangerous experience for most female frogs, and while there are various options to deter one or many suitors from this particular report, faking their own death may be the best shot at survival.


This article was produced by TPR Teaching.

Caitriona Maria is an education writer and founder of TPR Teaching, crafting inspiring pieces that promote the importance of developing new skills. For 7 years, she has been committed to providing students with the best learning opportunities possible, both domestically and abroad. Dedicated to unlocking students' potential, Caitriona has taught English in several countries and continues to explore new cultures through her travels.

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