Sexual signalling in bladder grasshoppers: tactical design for maximizing calling range.

Publication Type:Journal Article
Year of Publication:1997
Authors:van Staaden, Römer
Journal:J Exp Biol
Issue:Pt 20
Date Published:1997 Oct
Keywords:animal sexual behaviour, Animals, female, grasshoppers, male

Pair formation in the bladder grasshopper (Bullacris membracioides) is by duetting and male phonotaxis. Low-frequency stridulatory signals are emitted by an abdominal resonator in the male and are answered by females using a species-specific time delay. Acoustic transmission in the natural environment was studied using playback of sexual signals over distances of 450m under two atmospheric conditions (day and night). Upward-refracting sound conditions and a sound shadow zone beyond approximately 50m prevailed during the day. Acoustic enhancement was demonstrated at night when downward-refracting temperature inversions created a tunnel effect with sound caught between the ground and zones of different temperatures. Transmission conditions are almost ideal at night when the species actually calls; calling distances of 150m for the male signal in the afternoon increased to 1.5-1.9km at night, arguably the largest calling distance yet reported for insects. In contrast, female calls transmit over a maximum of 50m, signifying a marked discrepancy in the active space of sex-specific signals. Transmission distance may, however, be profoundly affected by levels of masking noise. Adaptations to increase the signal range may variously be found in the signal itself, in behaviour patterns or in the sensory system. Here we demonstrate aspects of the first two types of adaptation in the sexual signalling system of a grasshopper in which maximizing the calling range appears to be the major selection pressure, with lesser effects imposed by inter- and intraspecific pressures and by the transmission channel.

Alternate Journal:J. Exp. Biol.
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Scratchpads developed and conceived by (alphabetical): Ed Baker, Katherine Bouton Alice Heaton Dimitris Koureas, Laurence Livermore, Dave Roberts, Simon Rycroft, Ben Scott, Vince Smith