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Proc Biol Sci. 2019 Oct 9;286(1912):20191067. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2019.1067. Epub 2019 Oct 9.

Synchronized mating signals in a communication network: the challenge of avoiding predators while attracting mates.

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Department of Biological Sciences, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN, USA.
Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Balboa, Ancón, Panama.


Conspicuous mating signals attract mates but also expose signallers to predators and parasites. Signal evolution, therefore, is driven by conflicting selective pressures from multiple receivers, both target and non-target. Synchronization of mating signals, for example, is an evolutionary puzzle, given the assumed high cost of reduced female attraction when signals overlap. Synchronization may be beneficial, however, if overlapping signals reduce attraction of non-target receivers. We investigate how signal synchronization is shaped by the trade-off between natural and sexual selection in two anuran species: pug-nosed tree frogs (Smilisca sila), in which males produce mating calls in near-perfect synchrony, and túngara frogs (Engystomops pustulosus), in which males alternate their calls. To examine the trade-off imposed by signal synchronization, we conducted field and laboratory playback experiments on eavesdropping enemies (bats and midges) and target receivers (female frogs). Our results suggest that, while synchronization can be a general strategy for signallers to reduce their exposure to eavesdroppers, relaxed selection by females for unsynchronized calls is key to the evolution and maintenance of signal synchrony. This study highlights the role of relaxed selection in our understanding of the origin of mating signals and displays.


acoustic communication; communication network; eavesdroppers; relaxed selection; synchrony

[Available on 2020-10-09]

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