Broad Selectivity for Courtship Song in the Cricket Gryllus bimaculatus
L.S. Shestakov & V.Yu. Vedenina

Institute for Information Transmission Problems, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, Russia E-mail:

Various characteristics of a long-distance acoustic signal have been shown to vary to different degrees. It has been suggested that female preferences based on stable song parameters are stabilising or weakly directional, and preferences based on variable parameters are strongly directional. We tested this hypothesis based on a short-distance signal (courtship song) produced by the field cricket, Gryllus bimaculatus. We studied the degree of variability of different courtship song parameters and the behavioural importance of several parameters using synthesised song models in playback experiments. We found that most of the courtship song elements of G. bimaculatus were quite variable (coefficient of variation, CV, in the range of 20–53%). The most variable parameter of the courtship song was the relative amplitude of two elements: high-amplitude ticks and lowamplitude pulses. Because songs containing only ticks (of rare occurrence) appeared to be more effective than songs with both ticks and pulses (of frequent occurrence), we consider female preferences to be directional. Alteration of less variable traits, such as the carrier frequency and duration of ticks (CV = 20–25%), had a different effect on female responsiveness. The synthesised songs with different carrier frequencies of ticks were as attractive to females as the positive control (courtship of muted males accompanied by playback of the recorded song). Altering the duration of ticks had a crucial effect on the female response rate, decreasing female responsiveness to the level observed in the negative control (courtship of muted males). Thus, we did not find a strong relationship between the variability of individual song parameters and their potential importance in song recognition and the evaluation of male quality. The partial inconsistency of our results with the data of other authors may be due to different patterns of past and current selection on long-distance and short-distance acoustic signals.