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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2011 Oct 11;108(41):17058-63. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1104773108. Epub 2011 Oct 3.

Acoustic interference and recognition space within a complex assemblage of dendrobatid frogs.

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Department of Biological Sciences, Universidad de los Andes, Bogotá AA 4976, Colombia.


In species-rich assemblages of acoustically communicating animals, heterospecific sounds may constrain not only the evolution of signal traits but also the much less-studied signal-processing mechanisms that define the recognition space of a signal. To test the hypothesis that the recognition space is optimally designed, i.e., that it is narrower toward the species that represent the higher potential for acoustic interference, we studied an acoustic assemblage of 10 diurnally active frog species. We characterized their calls, estimated pairwise correlations in calling activity, and, to model the recognition spaces of five species, conducted playback experiments with 577 synthetic signals on 531 males. Acoustic co-occurrence was not related to multivariate distance in call parameters, suggesting a minor role for spectral or temporal segregation among species uttering similar calls. In most cases, the recognition space overlapped but was greater than the signal space, indicating that signal-processing traits do not act as strictly matched filters against sounds other than homospecific calls. Indeed, the range of the recognition space was strongly predicted by the acoustic distance to neighboring species in the signal space. Thus, our data provide compelling evidence of a role of heterospecific calls in evolutionarily shaping the frogs' recognition space within a complex acoustic assemblage without obvious concomitant effects on the signal.

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