Many insect families have evolved ears that are adapted to detect ultrasonic calls of bats. The acoustic sensory cues indicating the presence of a bat are then used to initiate bat avoidance behaviours. Background noise, in particular at ultrasonic frequencies, complicates these decisions, since a response to the background may result in costly false alarms. Here, we quantify bat avoidance responses of small rainforest crickets (Gryllidae, Trigoniinae), which live under conditions of high levels of ultrasonic background noise. Their bat avoidance behaviour exhibits markedly higher thresholds than most other studied eared insects. Their responses do not qualitatively differ at suprathreshold amplitudes up to sound pressure levels of 105 dB. Moreover, they also exhibit evasive responses to single, high-frequency events and do not require the repetitive sequence of ultrasonic calls typical for the search phase of bat echolocation calls. Analysis of bat and katydid sound amplitudes and peak frequencies in the crickets' rainforest habitat revealed that the cricket's behavioural threshold would successfully reject the katydid background noise. Using measurements of the crickets' echo target strength for bat predators, we calculated the detection distances for both predators and prey. Despite their high behavioural threshold, the cricket prey still has a significant detection advantage at frequencies between 20 and 40 kHz. The low-amplitude bat calls they ignore are no predation threat because even much louder calls would be detected before the bat would hear the cricket echo. This leaves ample time for evasive actions. Thus, a simple decision criterion based on a high-amplitude behavioural threshold can be adaptive under the high background noise levels in nocturnal rainforests, in avoiding false alarms and only missing detection for bat calls too far away to pose a risk. This article is part of the theme issue 'Signal detection theory in recognition systems: from evolving models to experimental tests'.
|Journal||Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences|
|Publication status||Published - 6 Jul 2020|
- bat avoidance
- decision making
- detection distance
- receiver operating characteristic
- target strength