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J Exp Biol. 2009 Dec;212(Pt 24):4056-64. doi: 10.1242/jeb.033183.

The cost of assuming the life history of a host: acoustic startle in the parasitoid fly Ormia ochracea.

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Center for Neural Science, New York University, New York, NY 10003, USA.


In the obligatory reproductive dependence of a parasite on its host, the parasite must trade the benefit of 'outsourcing' functions like reproduction for the risk of assuming hazards associated with the host. In the present study, we report behavioral adaptations of a parasitic fly, Ormia ochracea, that resemble those of its cricket hosts. Ormia females home in on the male cricket's songs and deposit larvae, which burrow into the cricket, feed and emerge to pupate. Because male crickets call at night, gravid female Ormia in search of hosts are subject to bat predation, in much the same way as female crickets are when responding to male song. We show that Ormia has evolved the same evasive behavior as have crickets: an acoustic startle response to bat-like ultrasound that manifests clearly only during flight. Furthermore, like crickets, Ormia has a sharp response boundary between the frequencies of song and bat cries, resembling categorical perception first described in the context of human speech.

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