Research topics

Evolution of parental care

Sexual selection

Reproductive ecology

Kin recognition and inclusive fitness

Mate choice

Aposematism and mimicry



Chytridiomycosis in Peru






Mating systems and sexual selection

The evolution of mating systems and the effect of parental investment on mating strategies is a subject of central interest in evolutionary and behavioral ecology, and has generated a vast literature (Andersson, 1994).  The poison frogs have proven to be a valuable system for studying the relationship between sexual selection and parental investment.  In Trivers' (1972) classic paper on parental investment and sexual selection, he suggested that species of poison frogs with male parental care (e.g. Dendrobates auratus), may have a "sex-role reversed" mating system.

I have done extensive observational and experimental fieldwork on this and other species with male parental care, focusing on mating strategies, sexual selection and parental care (Summers, 1989, 1990a,b, 1992a,b).  I have also done extensive field work on species with female parental care for comparative purposes (Summers, 1992).  My work has demonstrated conclusively that mating strategies in species with male parental care are characterized by sexual conflict, and are not an example of sex role reversal.  Females in poison frogs attempt to guard and monopolize the parental care of particular males, whereas males attempt to attract and mate with multiple females.  This leads to high levels of both female-female and male-male aggression, and to complex courtship in which females are more active but ultimately more selective than males.  I continue to investigate sexual selection in the poison frogs, and am now focusing on mating strategies in species from a large complex of frogs in Amazonia (the Dendrobates ventrimaculatus complex), some of which have biparental care.


Recent publications:

Siddiqi, A., Cronin, T.W., Loew, E.R., Vorobyev, M. & Summers, K. 2004. Interspecific and intraspecific views of color signals in the strawberry poison frog, Dendrobates pumilio. Journal of Experimental Biology 207:2471-2485. | PDF

Summers, K., Symula, R., Clough, M. and Cronin, T.W.  1999. Visual mate choice in poison frogs. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Series B 266:1-5. | PDF