1. Computational and Systems Biology
  2. Ecology
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Tree crickets optimize the acoustics of baffles to exaggerate their mate-attraction signal

  1. Natasha Mhatre  Is a corresponding author
  2. Robert Malkin
  3. Rittik Deb
  4. Rohini Balakrishnan
  5. Daniel Robert
  1. University of Bristol, United Kingdom
  2. Indian Institute of Science, India
Research Article
  • Cited 17
  • Views 4,239
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Cite this article as: eLife 2017;6:e32763 doi: 10.7554/eLife.32763

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.

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Article and author information

Author details

  1. Natasha Mhatre

    School of Biological Sciences, University of Bristol, Bristol, United Kingdom
    For correspondence
    natasha.mhatre@gmail.com
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0002-3618-306X
  2. Robert Malkin

    School of Biological Sciences, University of Bristol, Bristol, United Kingdom
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  3. Rittik Deb

    Centre for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, India
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  4. Rohini Balakrishnan

    Centre for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, India
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0003-0935-3884
  5. Daniel Robert

    School of Biological Sciences, University of Bristol, Bristol, United Kingdom
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.

Funding

Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BB/I009671/1)

  • Daniel Robert

UK India Research and Education Initiative

  • Rohini Balakrishnan
  • Daniel Robert

Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change

  • Rohini Balakrishnan

Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (09/079(2199)/2008-EMR-I)

  • Rittik Deb

Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin

  • Natasha Mhatre

European Commission (254455)

  • Natasha Mhatre

Royal Society

  • Daniel Robert

The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.

Reviewing Editor

  1. David Lentink, Stanford University, United States

Publication history

  1. Received: October 13, 2017
  2. Accepted: December 8, 2017
  3. Accepted Manuscript published: December 11, 2017 (version 1)
  4. Version of Record published: January 11, 2018 (version 2)

Copyright

© 2017, Mhatre et al.

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.

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