New paper in Biological Letters


Experience shapes accuracy in territorial decision-making in a poison frog.

Sonnleitner R, Ringler M, Loretto M-C & Ringler E.
Biol. Lett.1620200094


The trade-off between speed and accuracy affects many behavioural processes like predator avoidance, foraging and nest-site selection, but little is known about this trade-off relative to territorial behaviour. Some poison frogs are highly territorial and fiercely repel calling male intruders. However, attacks need to be conducted cautiously, as they are energetically costly and bear the risk of own injury or accidentally targeting the wrong individual. In this study, we investigated the speed–accuracy trade-off in the context of male territoriality during the breeding season in the brilliant-thighed poison frog, Allobates femoralis. In our experiment, we presented the call of an invisible ‘threatening’ intruder together with a visible ‘non-threatening’ intruder, using acoustic playback and a frog model, respectively. Contrary to our prediction, neither reaction time nor approach speed of the tested frogs determined the likelihood of erroneous attacks. However, younger individuals were more likely to attack the non-threatening model than older ones, suggesting that experience plays an essential role in identifying and distinguishing rivalling individuals in a territorial context.

© Elena Haeler