Sexual Signaling

Choosing to amplify

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Science  22 Dec 2017:
Vol. 358, Issue 6370, pp. 1552
DOI: 10.1126/science.358.6370.1552-a

Tree crickets can create nearly perfect acoustic baffles to amplify their calls.

PHOTO: NATASHA MHATRE

Crickets are well known for the calls that the males make to attract females. Just listening to a cricket chorus, however, emphasizes the challenge that these little insects have to be heard above the din. Tree crickets (Oecanthus henryi) have evolved the ability to use leaves as a baffle to amplify their calls, but not all males use these baffles, and in some years, only a rare few do so. Mhatre et al. found that when males chose to amplify, they selected the best-sized leaf available and optimized it to create a nearly perfect baffle. The fact that they only rarely chose to do so suggests that there may be a cost to such baffle creation. Further, although the authors did not determine whether baffling allows high-quality males to better advertise or lower-quality males to fib, they argue that opting to baffle (or not) involves an inherited, yet behaviorally intensive, set of choices.

eLife 10.7554/eLife.32763 (2017).

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