Scientists studying gray treefrogs have found that females of the species prefer males whose calls reflect the ability to multitask effectively.
In this species (Hyla chrysoscelis) males produce "trilled" mating calls that consist of a string of pulses.
Typical calls can range in duration from 20-40 pulses per call and occur between 5-15 calls per minute.
Males face a trade-off between call duration and call rate, but females preferred calls that are longer and more frequent, which is no simple task, according to a team of University of Minnesota researchers.
"It's kind of like singing and dancing at the same time," said Jessica Ward, lead author of the study.
The study supports the multitasking hypothesis, which suggests that females prefer males who can do two or more hard-to-do things at the same time because these are especially good quality males, Ward said.
By listening to recordings of 1,000 calls, Ward and colleagues learned that males are indeed forced to trade off call duration and call rate. That is, males that produce relatively longer calls only do so at relatively slower rates.
"It's easy to imagine that we humans might also prefer multitasking partners, such as someone who can successfully earn a good income, cook dinner, manage the finances and get the kids to soccer practice on time," Ward said.
The findings were published in the journal Animal Behavior.