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Plasticity of signaling and mate choice in a trilling species of the Mecopoda complex (Orthoptera: Tettigoniidae)

Krobath, I., Römer, H., Hartbauer, M.
Behavioral ecology and sociobiology 2017 v.71 no.11 pp. 164
Tettigoniidae, acoustics, courtship, females, insects, males, multivariate analysis, plasticity, prediction, social environment
Males of a trilling species in the Mecopoda complex produce conspicuous calling songs that consist of two motifs: an amplitude-modulated motif with alternating loud and soft segments (AM-motif) and a continuous, high-intensity trill. The function of these song motifs for female attraction and competition between males was investigated. We tested the hypothesis that males modify their signaling behavior depending on the social environment (presence/absence of females or rival males) when they compete for mates. Therefore, we analyzed acoustic signaling of males in three different situations: (1) solo singing, (2) acoustic interaction with another male, and (3) singing in the presence of a female. In addition, the preference of females for these song motifs and further song parameters was studied in two-choice experiments. As expected, females showed a preference for conspicuous and loud song elements, but nevertheless, males increased the proportion of the AM-motif in the presence of a female. In acoustic interactions, males reduced bout duration significantly compared to both other situations. However, song bouts in this situation still overlapped more than expected by chance, which indicates intentionally simultaneous singing. A multivariate statistical analysis revealed that the proportion of the AM-motif and the duration of loud segments within the AM-motif allow a reliable prediction of whether males sing in isolation, compete with another male, or sing in the presence of a female. These results indicate that the AM-motif plays a dominant role especially in close-range courtship and that males are challenged in finding a balance between attracting females and saving energy during repeated acoustic interactions. SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT: Males of acoustic insects often produce conspicuous calling songs that have a dual function in male-male competition and mate attraction. High signal amplitudes and signal rates are associated with high energetic costs for signal production. We would therefore predict that males adjust their signaling behavior according to their perception of the social context. Here we studied signal production and mate choice in a katydid, where males switch between loud and soft song segments in a dynamic way. Additionally, we examined the attractiveness of different song elements in female choice tests. Our results show how males of this katydid deal with the conflict of remaining attractive for females and competing with a costly signal with rivals.