Signal Perception in Frogs and Bats and the Evolution of Mating Signals

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Science  05 Aug 2011:
Vol. 333, Issue 6043, pp. 751-752
DOI: 10.1126/science.1205623

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Psychophysics measures the relationship between a stimulus’s physical magnitude and its perceived magnitude. Because decisions are based on perception of stimuli, this relationship is critical to understanding decision-making. We tested whether psychophysical laws explain how female túngara frogs (Physalaemus pustulosus) and frog-eating bats (Trachops cirrhosus) compare male frog calls, and how this imposes selection on call evolution. Although both frogs and bats prefer more elaborate calls, they are less selective as call elaboration increases, because preference is based on stimulus ratios. Thus, as call elaboration increases, both relative attractiveness and relative predation risk decrease because of how receivers perceive and compare stimuli. Our data show that female cognition can limit the evolution of sexual signal elaboration.

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