If you were a frog and regularly had to participate in orgies in order to procreate, I imagine it’d be quite helpful to be able to change colors during those events in an attempt to keep things organized.
I’m not the biggest fan of frogs, unlike my colleague Ellie Shechet. “I love frogs,” she told me. “They’re shiny. They come in bright colors. They have interesting hands. And they’ll do ANYTHING to protect their young.” While these assertions are all very true, it still wasn’t enough to convince me. But this article from Popular Science about some frogs who turn different colors during mass orgies as a means of making things easier has changed my mind.
A lot of the frogs that have sex en masse also turn yellow during the mating season. Rayna Bell, a research zoologist at the Smithsonian Institute, teamed up with Australian researchers to see if these traits actually tend to come in pairs—and if so, which behavior came first.
The sexy frog pile reproduction strategy presents interesting challenges for the animals involved. Bell compares the slimy jumble to a dark nightclub—no one can see what’s going on. “It gets a little chaotic,” says Bell. Could color changes be meant to help males stand out in the writhing crowd?
In many species, the male will often put on an elaborate cabaret show for the female in an attempt to attract a mate. Consider the all-day set building extravaganza the bird of paradise endures in an attempt to convince just one female bird to make its little babies. While some species of male frogs go through the same sort of elaborate mating rituals to attract a female, not many have a system in place like these frogs do: turning yellow isn’t an attempt to attract females, but to warn the other dudes in the frog orgy that they should NOT try to have sex with them because it wont do any good.
Imagine how helpful this would be in real life. Imagine the possibilities! Nature, again, is fucking wild.