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Biol Lett. Jun 23, 2010; 6(3): 293–296.
Published online Jan 27, 2010. doi:  10.1098/rsbl.2009.0934
PMCID: PMC2880057
Building a home from foam—túngara frog foam nest architecture and three-phase construction process
Laura Dalgetty and Malcolm W. Kennedy*
Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Faculty of Biomedical and Life Sciences, Graham Kerr Building, University of Glasgow, Glasgow G12 8QQ, Scotland, UK
*Author for correspondence (malcolm.kennedy/at/
Received November 12, 2009; Accepted January 3, 2010.
Frogs that build foam nests floating on water face the problems of over-dispersion of the secretions used and eggs being dangerously exposed at the foam : air interface. Nest construction behaviour of túngara frogs, Engystomops pustulosus, has features that may circumvent these problems. Pairs build nests in periodic bursts of foam production and egg deposition, three discrete phases being discernible. The first is characterized by a bubble raft without egg deposition and an approximately linear increase in duration of mixing events with time. This phase may reduce initial over-dispersion of foam precursor materials until a critical concentration is achieved. The main building phase is marked by mixing events and start-to-start intervals being nearly constant in duration. During the final phase, mixing events do not change in duration but intervals between them increase in an exponential-like fashion. Pairs joining a colonial nesting abbreviate their initial phase, presumably by exploiting a pioneer pair's bubble raft, thereby reducing energy and material expenditure, and time exposed to predators. Finally, eggs are deposited only in the centre of nests with a continuously produced, approximately 1 cm deep egg-free cortex that protectively encloses hatched larvae in stranded nests.
Keywords: Amphibia, túngara frog, Engystomops pustulosus, foam nest, nest construction behaviour
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