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Proc Biol Sci. 2008 Jun 7;275(1640):1243-8. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2007.1765.

Developmental plasticity of mating calls enables acoustic communication in diverse environments.

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Department of Biological Sciences, University of Missouri-Columbia, Columbia, MO 65211, USA.


Male calls of the katydid Neoconocephalus triops exhibit substantial developmental plasticity in two parameters: (i) calls of winter males are continuous and lack the verse structure of summer calls and (ii) at equal temperatures, summer males produce calls with a substantially higher pulse rate than winter males. We raised female N. triops under conditions that reliably induced either summer or winter phenotype and tested their preferences for the call parameters that differ between summer and winter males. Neither generation was selective for the presence of verses, but females had strong preferences for pulse rates: only a narrow range of pulse rates was attractive. The attractive ranges did not differ between summer and winter females. Both male pulse rate and female preference for pulse rate changed with ambient temperature, but female preference changed more than the male calls. As a result, the summer call was attractive only at 25 degrees C, whereas the slower winter call was attractive only at 20 degrees C. Thus, developmental plasticity of male calls compensates for differences in temperature dependency between calls and preferences and enables the communication system to function in heterogeneous environments. The potential role of call plasticity during the invasion of new habitats is discussed.

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