sounds about right

New Study Finds That Female Frogs Fake Their Own Death To Avoid Unwanted Male Attention

Nature is so beautiful.

Originally Published: 
Human females take note: common female frogs play dead when they don't want to mate.
imageBROKER/Kevin Sawford

Here’s a super great idea for the next time a dude tries to talk to you while you’re trying to read a novel in public or just trying to exist in the world: just fake your own death! Easy as pie.

This week, researchers published a new study showing that some of our female four-legged friends have advanced far, far beyond humans and reached a higher plane of existence when it comes to dating and sex.

Specifically, common female frogs in Europe have devised a way to successfully get away from unwanted male attention. It simply involves pretending to die and then lying very still until they go away.


This week in the journal Royal Society Open Science, scientists from Berlin published a paper called, “Drop dead! Female mate avoidance in an explosively breeding frog,” which outlines the completely ingenious evolutionary strategy.

Here’s how it works, as explained by study author Carolin Dittrich, an evolutionary and behavioral ecologist who co-wrote the study with funding from the Natural History Museum Berlin: Common frogs engage in a short and “intense” breeding season, in which males aggressively and doggedly attempt to mate with females. It can be so extreme that females are actually hurt or killed by “explosive”, “breeding balls” where large numbers of men fight to mate with one female frog.

Sounds like Frog Tinder. Do not like.

But women frogs have evolved a new skill called “tonic immobility” in which the animals stretch their arms and legs straight out from the body, so that they look like they have rigor mortis. It’s enough to turn off the males and send them on their way.

This way, females can better choose who to mate with and who to skip — the way it should be.

In the study, 54 males were placed in a box with two females: A larger and smaller examples of the species. The scientists then recorded the different ways the females interacted, including pushing away, making noises, or playing dead.

“Females in these dense breeding aggregations are not passive as previously thought,” Dittrich told The Guardian. “Displaying of mate avoidance behavior resulted in the escape of 25 females.”

I’m going to try this the next time a man tries to talk to me at the gym. Just crumble to the floor and slide, unmoving, to the end of my treadmill until he walks away. Problem solved.

Although other animals, especially in the insect kingdom, have been know to fake their own deaths, Dittrich continued, it’s usually to avoid predators, not guys.

Try practicing “tonic immobility” any time you’re given unwanted attention by a man — it even works to respond to someone asking you out with, “I would really love to, but unfortunately I’m dead.”

Amazingly, this isn’t even the only strategy these frogs have against men that they aren’t attracted to. They also have learned how to “turn away” from mating, and how to make frog calls that make them sound like a male frog. Can these frogs give a lecture series to human women, please?

This is totally genius, all they need now is to learn how to use pepper spray and hand out fake phone numbers.

Dittrich also told The Guardian that the study is evidence that we still have a ton to learn even from species humans have been studying for years. “I think even if we call this species a common frog and think we know it well, there are still aspects we don’t know and perhaps haven’t thought about,” she said.

Maybe these female frogs also know the secret of how to be taken seriously for their contributions to society while still wearing cute skirts and lipstick? I can’t wait to learn more.

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