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Relative weighting of acoustic information during mating decisions in grasshoppers indicates signatures of sexual selection A Neuroethology, sensory, neural, and behavioral physiology

Clemens, Jan, Aufderheide, Jennifer, Ronacher, Bernhard
Journal of comparative physiology 2017 v.203 no.11 pp. 891-901
Chorthippus biguttulus, acoustics, algorithms, courtship, decision making, females, grasshoppers, males, models, progeny, sexual selection, vocalization
The decision with whom to mate is crucial in determining an individual’s fitness and is often based on the evaluation of visual or acoustic displays produced during courtship. Accordingly, the algorithms for evaluating such courtship signals are shaped by sexual selection and should reflect the expected benefits and costs of mating: signals bearing heterospecific features should be rapidly rejected, since mating would produce no fertile offspring, while signals resembling conspecific ones should be weighted proportional to mate quality. We test these hypotheses in females of the grasshopper Chorthippus biguttulus who assess males by their song, which is produced as a sequence of subunits with species and individual specific signatures. We present mixed sequences of subunits with conflicting cues and use a computational model of decision-making to infer how sensory information is weighted and integrated over the song. Consistent with our hypothesis, females do weight sensory cues according to the expected fitness benefits/costs: heterospecific subunits are weighted particularly negatively and lead to a rejection of the male early in the song. Conspecific subunits are weighted moderately, permitting a more complete evaluation of the full song. However, there exists an overall negative bias against mating, possible causes of which are discussed.