Tap dancing frogs: Posterior toe tapping and feeding in Dendrobates tinctorius

Thomas Q. Parrish, Eva K. Fischer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Animals have myriad adaptations to help them hunt and feed in the most efficient and effective manner. One mysterious behavior related to hunting and feeding is the posterior toe tapping behavior of some frogs. Biologists and hobbyists alike have long noticed this behavior, but there is little empirical data to explain its causes and consequences. To test the hypothesis that tapping is related to feeding and modulated by environmental context, we conducted a series of related experiments in the Dyeing poison frog, Dendrobates tinctorius. We first confirmed that tap rate was higher during feeding as has been observed in other species. Interestingly, this effect was heightened in the presence of a conspecific. We next asked whether frogs tapped less under conditions when prey were visible, but inaccessible. Finally, we asked whether D. tinctorius adjusted tap rate based on substrate characteristics and whether prey capture success was higher when tapping. In addition to confirming an association between tapping and feeding, our work demonstrates modulation of toe tapping based on social context, prey accessibility, and substrate characteristics. Based on our findings, we suggest that tapping could act to induce prey movement and thereby facilitate prey detection and capture by frogs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere13465
StateE-pub ahead of print - Apr 16 2024


  • anuran
  • Dendrobatidae
  • feeding behavior
  • pedal luring
  • prey capture


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