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Acoustic Preference of Frog‐Biting Midges (Corethrella spp) Attacking Túngara Frogs in their Natural Habitat

Aihara, Ikkyu, Silva, Priyanka, Bernal, Ximena E., Wright, J.
Ethology 2016 v.122 no.2 pp. 105-113
Corethrella, acoustics, animal behavior, blood meal, females, frogs, habitats, image analysis, males, midges, parasites, predators, tropics
In many animals, males aggregate to produce mating signals that attract conspecific females. These leks, however, also attract eavesdropping predators and parasites lured by the mating signal. This study investigates the acoustic preferences of eavesdroppers attracted to natural choruses in a Neotropical frog, the túngara frog (Engystomops pustulosus). In particular, we examined the responses of frog‐biting midges to natural variation in call properties and signaling rates of males in the chorus. These midges use the mating calls of the frogs to localize them and obtain a blood meal. Although it is known that the midges prefer complex over simple túngara frog calls, it is unclear how these eavesdroppers respond to natural call variation when confronted with multiple males in a chorus. We investigated the acoustic preference of the midges using calling frogs in their natural environment and thus accounted for natural variation in their call properties. We performed field recordings using a sound imaging system to quantify the temporal call properties of males in small choruses. During these recordings, we also collected frog‐biting midges attacking calling males. Our results revealed that, in a given chorus, male frogs calling at higher rates and with higher call complexity attracted a larger number of frog‐biting midges. Call rate was particularly important at increasing the number of midges attracted when males produced calls of lower complexity. Similarly, call complexity increased attractiveness to the midges especially when males produced calls at a low repetition rate. Given that female túngara frogs prefer calls produced at higher repetition rates and higher complexity, this study highlights the challenge faced by signalers when increasing attractiveness of the signal to their intended receivers.