In many species, females can improve their fitness by preferring particular males over others. In
Palaearctic water frogs of the Rana lessonae/R. esculenta complex the consequences of such mate choice are particularly pronounced. To produce viable offspring, the hybrid R. esculenta (genotype RL) must mate with the parental species R. lessonae (LL); but R. lessonae should avoid mating with R. esculenta, because the resulting hybrid offspring will eliminate the L genome from the germline (hybridogenesis). Hence, there exists a conflict between the sexual parasite (RL) and its sexual host (LL) over the best mating partner. Previous studies have shown a preference for LL males in LL and RL females; but they have also
shown that females cannot usually realize their choice when in close proximity to males, because the males forcefully and indiscriminately amplex them. We tested whether females use male vocalizations as a long-distance signal to increase their chances of mating with the preferred LL males. We exposed female R. lessonae and R. esculenta to playbacks of single LL and RL mating calls (experiment 1) and to choruses
with a 3:1 excess of LL and RL calls, respectively (experiment 2). In experiment 1, both female types were attracted more by the LL than by the RL calls. In experiment 2, no discrimination between LL- and RL-dominated choruses was observed. The results suggest that females do not use distant male vocalization to approach preferentially ponds or arenas within a pond that hold an excess of LL males. But once they have arrived in a chorus, mating calls from nearby males can direct them to the preferred LL mates. We discuss possible reasons for the failure to discriminate between choruses and the chances for successful choice between individuals within choruses.