Tree crickets optimize the acoustics of baffles to exaggerate their mate-attraction signal

Natasha Mhatre, Daniel Robert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

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Abstract

Object manufacture in insects is typically inherited, and believed to be highly stereotyped. Optimization, the ability to select the functionally best material and modify it appropriately for a specific function, implies flexibility and is usually thought to be incompatible with inherited behaviour. Here we show that tree-crickets optimize acoustic baffles, objects that are used to increase the effective loudness of mate-attraction calls. We quantified the acoustic efficiency of all baffles within the naturally feasible design space using finite-element modelling and found that design affects efficiency significantly. We tested the baffle-making behaviour of tree crickets in a series of experimental contexts. We found that given the opportunity, tree crickets
optimised baffle acoustics; they selected the best sized object and modified it appropriately to make a near optimal baffle. Surprisingly, optimization could be achieved in a single attempt, and is likely to be achieved through an inherited yet highly accurate behavioural heuristic.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere32763
Number of pages16
JournaleLife
Volume6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 11 Dec 2017

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