The majority of anuran amphibians (frogs and toads) use acoustic communication to mediate sexual behavior and reproduction. Generally, females find and select their mates using acoustic cues provided by males in the form of conspicuous advertisement calls. In these species, vocal signal production and reception are intimately tied to successful reproduction. Research with anurans has demonstrated that acoustic communication is modulated by reproductive hormones, including gonadal steroids and peptide neuromodulators. Most of these studies have focused on the ways in which hormonal systems influence vocal signal production; however, here we will concentrate on a growing body of literature that examines hormonal modulation of call reception. This literature suggests that reproductive hormones contribute to the coordination of reproductive behaviors between signaler and receiver by modulating sensitivity and spectral filtering of the anuran auditory system. It has become evident that the hormonal systems that influence reproductive behaviors are highly conserved among vertebrate taxa, thus studying the endocrine and neuromodulatory bases of acoustic communication in frogs and toads can lead to insights of broader applicability to hormonal modulation of vertebrate sensory physiology and behavior.
anurans; arginine vasotocin; auditory system; gonadal steroids; sensory physiology
Many animals use multimodal (both visual and acoustic) components in courtship signals. The acoustic communication of anuran amphibians can be masked by the presence of environmental background noise, and multimodal displays may enhance receiver detection in complex acoustic environments. In the present study, we measured sound pressure levels of concurrently calling males of the Small Torrent Frog (Micrixalus saxicola) and used acoustic playbacks and an inflatable balloon mimicking a vocal sac to investigate male responses to controlled unimodal (acoustic) and multimodal (acoustic and visual) dynamic stimuli in the frogs’ natural habitat. Our results suggest that abiotic noise of the stream does not constrain signal detection, but males are faced with acoustic interference and masking from conspecific chorus noise. Multimodal stimuli elicited greater response from males and triggered significantly more visual signal responses than unimodal stimuli. We suggest that the vocal sac acts as a visual cue and improves detection and discrimination of acoustic signals by making them more salient to receivers amidst complex biotic background noise.
Anura; Acoustic signal; Background noise; Multimodal communication; Visual cue; Vocal sac
Invasive species are known to affect native species in a variety of ways, but the effect of acoustic invaders has not been examined previously. We simulated an invasion of the acoustic niche by exposing calling native male white-banded tree frogs (Hypsiboas albomarginatus) to recorded invasive American bullfrog (Lithobates catesbeianus) calls. In response, tree frogs immediately shifted calls to significantly higher frequencies. In the post-stimulus period, they continued to use higher frequencies while also decreasing signal duration. Acoustic signals are the primary basis of mate selection in many anurans, suggesting that such changes could negatively affect the reproductive success of native species. The effects of bullfrog vocalizations on acoustic communities are expected to be especially severe due to their broad frequency band, which masks the calls of multiple species simultaneously.
invasive species; bioacoustics; noise pollution; Anura; Amphibia; Brazil
Among anuran amphibians, only two species, Odorrana tormota and Huia cavitympanum, are known to possess recessed tympanic membranes. Odorrana tormota is the first non-mammalian vertebrate demonstrated to communicate with ultrasonic frequencies (above 20 kHz), and the frogs' sunken tympana are hypothesized to play a key role in their high-frequency hearing sensitivity. Here we present the first data on the vocalizations of H. cavitympanum. We found that this species emits extraordinarily high-frequency calls, a portion of which are comprised entirely of ultrasound. This represents the first documentation of an anuran species producing purely ultrasonic signals. In addition, the vocal repertoire of H. cavitympanum is highly variable in frequency modulation pattern and spectral composition. The frogs' use of vocal signals with a wide range of dominant frequencies may be a strategy to maximize acoustic energy transmission to both nearby and distant receivers. The convergence of these species' call characteristics should stimulate additional, phylogenetically based studies of other lower vertebrates to provide new insight into the mechanistic and evolutionary foundations of high-frequency hearing in all vertebrate forms.
Odorrana tormota; Huia cavitympanum; ultrasonic communication; ultrasound; convergence
Sound source perception refers to the auditory system’s ability to parse incoming sensory information into coherent representations of distinct sound sources in the environment. Such abilities are no doubt key to successful communication in many taxa, but we know little about their function in animal communication systems. For anuran amphibians (frogs and toads), social and reproductive behaviors depend on a listener’s ability to hear and identify sound signals amid high levels of background noise in acoustically cluttered environments. Recent neuroethological studies are revealing how frogs parse these complex acoustic scenes to identify individual calls in noisy breeding choruses. Current evidence highlights some interesting similarities and differences in how the auditory systems of frogs and other vertebrates (most notably birds and mammals) perform auditory scene analysis.
Multimodal communication of acoustic and visual signals serves a vital role in the mating system of anuran amphibians. To understand signal evolution and function in multimodal signal design it is critical to test receiver responses to unimodal signal components versus multimodal composite signals. We investigated two anuran species displaying a conspicuous foot-flagging behavior in addition to or in combination with advertisement calls while announcing their signaling sites to conspecifics. To investigate the conspicuousness of the foot-flagging signals, we measured and compared spectral reflectance of foot webbings of Micrixalus saxicola and Staurois parvus using a spectrophotometer. We performed behavioral field experiments using a model frog including an extendable leg combined with acoustic playbacks to test receiver responses to acoustic, visual and combined audio-visual stimuli. Our results indicated that the foot webbings of S. parvus achieved a 13 times higher contrast against their visual background than feet of M. saxicola. The main response to all experimental stimuli in S. parvus was foot flagging, whereas M. saxicola responded primarily with calls but never foot flagged. Together these across-species differences suggest that in S. parvus foot-flagging behavior is applied as a salient and frequently used communicative signal during agonistic behavior, whereas we propose it constitutes an evolutionary nascent state in ritualization of the current fighting behavior in M. saxicola.
Bat echolocation calls provide remarkable examples of ‘good design’ through evolution by natural selection. Theory developed from acoustics and sonar engineering permits a strong predictive basis for understanding echolocation performance. Call features, such as frequency, bandwidth, duration and pulse interval are all related to ecological niche. Recent technological breakthroughs have aided our understanding of adaptive aspects of call design in free-living bats. Stereo videogrammetry, laser scanning of habitat features and acoustic flight path tracking permit reconstruction of the flight paths of echolocating bats relative to obstacles and prey in nature. These methods show that echolocation calls are among the most intense airborne vocalizations produced by animals. Acoustic tracking has clarified how and why bats vary call structure in relation to flight speed. Bats using broadband echolocation calls adjust call design in a range-dependent manner so that nearby obstacles are localized accurately. Recent phylogenetic analyses based on gene sequences show that particular types of echolocation signals have evolved independently in several lineages of bats. Call design is often influenced more by perceptual challenges imposed by the environment than by phylogeny, and provides excellent examples of convergent evolution. Now that whole genome sequences of bats are imminent, understanding the functional genomics of echolocation will become a major challenge.
echolocation; bats; adaptation; convergent evolution
Anuran vocalizations, especially their advertisement calls, are largely species-specific and can be used to identify taxonomic affiliations. Because anurans are not vocal learners, their vocalizations are generally assumed to have a strong genetic component. This suggests that the degree of similarity between advertisement calls may be related to large-scale phylogenetic relationships. To test this hypothesis, advertisement calls from 90 species belonging to four large clades (Bufo, Hylinae, Leptodactylus, and Rana) were analyzed. Phylogenetic distances were estimated based on the DNA sequences of the 12S mitochondrial ribosomal RNA gene, and, for a subset of 49 species, on the rhodopsin gene. Mean values for five acoustic parameters (coefficient of variation of root-mean-square amplitude, dominant frequency, spectral flux, spectral irregularity, and spectral flatness) were computed for each species. We then tested for phylogenetic signal on the body-size-corrected residuals of these five parameters, using three statistical tests (Moran’s I, Mantel, and Blomberg’s K) and three models of genetic distance (pairwise distances, Abouheif’s proximities, and the variance-covariance matrix derived from the phylogenetic tree).
A significant phylogenetic signal was detected for most acoustic parameters on the 12S dataset, across statistical tests and genetic distance models, both for the entire sample of 90 species and within clades in several cases. A further analysis on a subset of 49 species using genetic distances derived from rhodopsin and from 12S broadly confirmed the results obtained on the larger sample, indicating that the phylogenetic signals observed in these acoustic parameters can be detected using a variety of genetic distance models derived either from a variable mitochondrial sequence or from a conserved nuclear gene.
We found a robust relationship, in a large number of species, between anuran phylogenetic relatedness and acoustic similarity in the advertisement calls in a taxon with no evidence for vocal learning, even after correcting for the effect of body size. This finding, covering a broad sample of species whose vocalizations are fairly diverse, indicates that the intense selection on certain call characteristics observed in many anurans does not eliminate all acoustic indicators of relatedness. Our approach could potentially be applied to other vocal taxa.
Anurans; Molecular phylogeny; Phylogenetic signal; Acoustics; Advertisement calls; Mitochondrial DNA; 12 S; Rhodopsin; Bufo; Hylinae; Leptodactylus; Rana
Atelopus franciscus is a diurnal bufonid frog that lives in South-American tropical rain forests. As in many other frogs, males produce calls to defend their territories and attract females. However, this species is a so-called “earless” frog lacking an external tympanum and is thus anatomically deaf. Moreover, A. franciscus has no external vocal sac and lives in a sound constraining environment along river banks where it competes with other calling frogs. Despite these constraints, male A. franciscus reply acoustically to the calls of conspecifics in the field. To resolve this apparent paradox, we studied the vocal apparatus and middle-ear, analysed signal content of the calls, examined sound and signal content propagation in its natural habitat, and performed playback experiments. We show that A. franciscus males can produce only low intensity calls that propagate a short distance (<8 m) as a result of the lack of an external vocal sac. The species-specific coding of the signal is based on the pulse duration, providing a simple coding that is efficient as it allows discrimination from calls of sympatric frogs. Moreover, the signal is redundant and consequently adapted to noisy environments. As such a coding system can be efficient only at short-range, territory holders established themselves at short distances from each other. Finally, we show that the middle-ear of A. franciscus does not present any particular adaptations to compensate for the lack of an external tympanum, suggesting the existence of extra-tympanic pathways for sound propagation.
Acoustic analyses of primate vocalizations as well as playback experiments are staple methods in primatology. Acoustic analyses have been used to investigate the influence of factors such as individuality, context, sex, age, and size on variation in calls. More recent studies have expanded our knowledge on the effects of phylogenetic relatedness and the structure of primate vocal repertoires in general. Complementary playback experiments allow direct testing of hypotheses regarding the attribution of meaning to calls, the cognitive mechanisms underpinning responses, and/or the adaptive value of primate behavior. After briefly touching on the historical background of this field of research, we first provide an introduction to recording primate vocalizations and discuss different approaches to describe primate calls in terms of their temporal and spectral properties. Second, we present a tutorial regarding the preparation, execution, and interpretation of field playback experiments, including a review of studies that have used such approaches to investigate the responses to acoustic variation in calls including the integration of contextual and acoustic information, recognition of kin and social relationships, and social knowledge. Based on the review of the literature and our own experience, we make a number of recommendations regarding the most common problems and pitfalls. The power of acoustic analyses typically hinges on the quality of the recordings and the number of individuals represented in the sample. Playback experiments require profound knowledge of the natural behavior of the animals for solid interpretation; experiments should be conducted sparingly, to avoid habituation of the subjects to the occurrence of the calls; experimenter-blind designs chosen whenever possible; and researchers should brace themselves for long periods of waiting times until the appropriate moments to do the experiment arise. If all these aspects are considered, acoustic analyses and field playback experiments provide unique insights into primate communication and cognition. Am. J. Primatol. 75:643–663, 2013. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
acoustic analysis; alarm calls; cognition; communication; playback experiments
Urban environments generate constant loud noise, which creates a formidable challenge for many animals relying on acoustic communication. Some birds make vocal adjustments that reduce auditory masking by altering, for example, the frequency (kHz) or timing of vocalizations. Another adjustment, well documented for birds under laboratory and natural field conditions, is a noise level-dependent change in sound signal amplitude (the ‘Lombard effect’). To date, however, field research on amplitude adjustments in urban environments has focused exclusively on bird song.
We investigated amplitude regulation of alarm calls using, as our model, a successful urban ‘adapter’ species, the Noisy miner, Manorina melanocephala. We compared several different alarm calls under contrasting noise conditions.
Individuals at noisier locations (arterial roads) alarm called significantly more loudly than those at quieter locations (residential streets). Other mechanisms known to improve sound signal transmission in ‘noise’, namely use of higher perches and in-flight calling, did not differ between site types. Intriguingly, the observed preferential use of different alarm calls by Noisy miners inhabiting arterial roads and residential streets was unlikely to have constituted a vocal modification made in response to sound-masking in the urban environment because the calls involved fell within the main frequency range of background anthropogenic noise.
The results of our study suggest that a species, which has the ability to adjust the amplitude of its signals, might have a ‘natural’ advantage in noisy urban environments.
Acoustic communication is the major component of social behavior in anuran amphibians (frogs and toads) and has served as a neuroethological model for the nervous system’s processing of social signals related to mate choice decisions. The male’s advertisement or mating call is its most conspicuous social signal, and the nervous system’s analysis of the call is a progressive process. As processing proceeds through neural systems, response properties become more specific to the signal and, in addition, neural activity gradually shifts from representing sensory (auditory periphery and brainstem) to sensorimotor (diencephalon) to motor (forebrain) components of a behavioral response.
A comparative analysis of many anuran species shows that the first stage in biasing responses toward conspecific signals over heterospecific signals, and toward particular features of conspecific signals, lies in the tuning of the peripheral auditory system. Biases in processing signals are apparent through the brainstem auditory system, where additional feature detection neurons are added by the time processing reaches the level of the midbrain. Recent work using immediate early gene expression as a marker of neural activity suggests that by the level of the midbrain and forebrain, the differential neural representation of conspecific and heterospecific signals involves both changes in mean activity levels across multiple subnuclei, and in the functional correlations among acoustically active areas. Our data show that in frogs the auditory midbrain appears to play an important role in controlling behavioral responses to acoustic social signals by acting as a regulatory gateway between the stimulus analysis of the brainstem and the behavioral and physiological control centers of the forebrain. We predict that this will hold true for other vertebrate groups such as birds and fish that produce acoustic social signals, and perhaps also in fish where electroreception or vibratory sensing through the lateral line systems plays a role in social signaling, as in all these cases ascending sensory information converges onto midbrain nuclei which relay information to higher brain centers.
Call rate suppression is a common short-term solution for avoiding acoustic interference in animals. It has been widely documented between and within frog species, but the effects of non-anuran calling on frog vocalizations is less well known. Heterospecific acoustic interference on the calling of Oophaga pumilio (Bauer, 1994) (formerly Dendrobates pumilio) males was studied in a lowland, wet tropical forest in SE Nicaragua. Acoustic playback experiments were conducted to characterize the responses of O. pumilio males to interfering calls of cicadas, two species of crickets and a sympatric dendrobatid frog, Phyllobates lugubris. Call rate, call bout duration, percent of time calling, dominant frequency and latency to first-call were analyzed. Significant call rate suppression was observed during all stimulus playbacks, yet no significant differences were found in spontaneous call rates during pre- and post-playback trials. Dominant frequency significantly decreased after P. lugubris playback and first-call latency significantly decreased in response to both cicada and tree cricket playbacks. These results provide robust evidence that O. pumilio males can dynamically modify their calling pattern in unique ways, depending on the source of the heterospecific acoustic interference.
amphibian; vocalizations; playback experiments; call rate suppression; dendrobatidae
During female mate choice, both the male's phenotype and resources (e.g. his nest) contribute to the chooser's fitness. Animals other than humans are not known to advertise resource characteristics to potential mates through vocal communication; although in some species of anurans and birds, females do evaluate male qualities through vocal communication. Here, we demonstrate that calls of the male Emei music frog (Babina dauchina), vocalizing from male-built nests, reflect nest structure information that can be recognized by females. Inside-nest calls consisted of notes with energy concentrated at lower frequency ranges and longer note durations when compared with outside-nest calls. Centre frequencies and note durations of the inside calls positively correlate with the area of the burrow entrance and the depth of the burrow, respectively. When given a choice between outside and inside calls played back alternately, more than 70 per cent of the females (33/47) chose inside calls. These results demonstrate that males of this species faithfully advertise whether or not they possess a nest to potential mates by vocal communication, which probably facilitates optimal mate selection by females. These results revealed a novel function of advertisement calls, which is consistent with the wide variation in both call complexity and social behaviour within amphibians.
sexual selection; sound communication; mate choice; burrowing frog; phonotaxis tests
According to the acoustic adaptation hypothesis, communication signals are evolutionary shaped in a way that minimizes its degradation and maximizes its contrast against the background noise. To compare the importance for call divergence of acoustic adaptation and hybridization, an evolutionary force allegedly promoting phenotypic variation, we compared the mate recognition signal of two species of poison frogs (Oophaga histrionica and O. lehmanni) at five localities: two (one per species) alongside noisy streams, two away from streams, and one interspecific hybrid. We recorded the calls of 47 males and characterized the microgeographic variation in their spectral and temporal features, measuring ambient noise level, body size, and body temperature as covariates. As predicted, frogs living in noisy habitats uttered high frequency calls and, in one species, were much smaller in size. These results support a previously unconsidered role of noise on streams as a selective force promoting an increase in call frequency and pleiotropic effects in body size. Regarding hybrid frogs, their calls overlapped in the signal space with the calls of one of the parental lineages. Our data support acoustic adaptation following two evolutionary routes but do not support the presumed role of hybridization in promoting phenotypic diversity.
The clawed frog Xenopus laevis produces vocalizations consisting of distinct patterns of clicks. This study provides the first description of spontaneous, pure-tone and communication-signal evoked discharge properties of auditory nerve (n.VIII) fibers and dorsal medullary nucleus (DMN) cells in an obligatorily aquatic anuran. Responses of 297 n.VIII and 253 DMN units are analyzed for spontaneous rates (SR), frequency tuning, rate-intensity functions, and firing rate adaptation, with a view to how these basic characteristics shape responses to recorded call stimuli. Response properties generally resemble those in partially terrestrial anurans. Broad tuning exists across characteristic frequencies (CFs). Threshold minima are −101 dB re 1 mm/s at 675 Hz; −87 dB at 1,600 Hz; and −61 dB at 3,000 Hz (−90, −77, and −44 dB re 1 Pa, respectively), paralleling the peak frequency of vocalizations at 1.2–1.6 kHz with ~500 Hz in 3 dB bandwidth. SRs range from 0 to 80 (n.VIII) and 0 to 73 spikes/s (DMN). Nerve and DMN units of all CFs follow click rates in natural calls, ≤67 clicks/s and faster. Units encode clicks with a single spike, double spikes, or bursts. Spike times correlate closely with click envelopes. No temporal filtering for communicative click rates occurs in either n.VIII or the DMN.
Auditory nerve; Hearing; Amphibian; Dorsal medullary nucleus; Sound communication
Huia cavitympanum, an endemic Bornean frog, is the first amphibian species known to emit exclusively ultrasonic (i.e., >20 kHz) vocal signals. To test the hypothesis that these frogs use purely ultrasonic vocalizations for intraspecific communication, we performed playback experiments with male frogs in their natural calling sites. We found that the frogs respond with increased calling to broadcasts of conspecific calls containing only ultrasound. The field study was complemented by electrophysiological recordings from the auditory midbrain and by laser Doppler vibrometer measurements of the tympanic membrane's response to acoustic stimulation. These measurements revealed that the frog's auditory system is broadly tuned over high frequencies, with peak sensitivity occurring within the ultrasonic frequency range. Our results demonstrate that H. cavitympanum is the first non-mammalian vertebrate described to communicate with purely ultrasonic acoustic signals. These data suggest that further examination of the similarities and differences in the high-frequency/ultrasonic communication systems of H. cavitympanum and Odorrana tormota, an unrelated frog species that produces and detects ultrasound but does not emit exclusively ultrasonic calls, will afford new insights into the mechanisms underlying vertebrate high-frequency communication.
As in many anurans, males of the totally aquatic species, Xenopus laevis, advertise their sexual receptivity using vocalizations. Unusually for anurans, X. laevis females also advertise producing a fertility call that results in courtship duets between partners. Although all X. laevis calls consist of repetitive click trains, male and female calls exhibit sex-specific acoustic features that might convey sexual identity. We tested the significance of the carrier frequency and the temporal pattern of calls using underwater playback experiments in which modified calls were used to evoke vocal responses in males. Since males respond differently to male and female calls, the modification of a key component of sexual identity in calls should change the male's response. We found that a female-like slow call rhythm triggers more vocal activity than a male-like fast rhythm. A call containing both a female-like temporal pattern and a female-like carrier frequency elicits higher levels of courtship display than either feature alone. In contrast, a male-like temporal pattern is sufficient to trigger typical male–male encounter vocalizations regardless of spectral cues. Thus, our evidence supports a role for temporal acoustic cues in sexual identity recognition and for spectral acoustic cues in conveying female attractiveness in X. laevis.
inter-sexual acoustic communication; frog; Xenopus laevis; playback experiments; temporal and spectral cues
Shrews are very vocal animals. We tested behaviourally whether the high-pitched laryngeal ‘twittering’ calls of as-yet unclear function serve for communication or echo-based orientation. We used a representative species from each of the two largest phylogenetic groups of shrews. In both species, experimental manipulation of substrate density, but not of the likelihood of conspecific presence, affected the shrews' call rate when exploring an unknown environment. This adaptation of call rate to the degree of habitat clutter parallels bat echolocation and suggests that shrews may use the echoes and reverberations of their calls for identifying routes through their habitat or for probing habitat type. To assess the acoustic feasibility of shrew echo orientation, we ensonified shrew habitats in the field with an ‘artificial shrew’ (small speaker mounted close to a sensitive microphone). The data showed that shrew-like calls can indeed yield echo scenes useful for habitat assessment at close range, but beyond the range of the shrews' vibrissae.
vocal behaviour; echolocation; communication; habitat acoustics; Sorex; Crocidura
Vocalizations are a dominant means of communication for numerous species, including nonhuman primates. These acoustic signals are encoded with a rich array of information available to signal receivers that can be used to guide species-typical behaviors. Here we examined the communicative content of common marmoset phee calls, the species-typical long distance contact call, during antiphonal calling. This call type has a relatively stereotyped acoustic structure, consisting of a series of long tonal pulses. Analyses revealed that calls could be reliably classified based on the individual identity and social group of the caller. Our analyses did not, however, correctly classify phee calls recorded under different social contexts, though differences were evident along individual acoustic parameters. Further tests of antiphonal calling interactions showed that spontaneously produced phee calls differ from antiphonal phee calls in their peak and end frequency, which may be functionally significant. Overall, this study shows that the marmoset phee call has a rich communicative content encoded in its acoustic structure available to conspecifics during antiphonal calling exchanges.
Common Marmoset; Phee Calls; Antiphonal Calling; Dialects; Information Content
Global climate change has been implicated in phenological shifts for a variety of taxa. Amphibian species in particular are sensitive to changes in their environment due to their biphasic life history and restricted reproductive requirements. Previous research has shown that not all temperate amphibian species respond similarly to the same suite of climatic or environmental cues, nor are individual species necessarily uniform in their responses across their range. We examined both the timing of spring emergence and calling phenology of eight anuran species in southeastern Ontario, Canada, using an approximately 40-year dataset of historical records of amphibian activity. Rana pipiens was the only species out of eight considered to emerge significantly earlier, by an estimated 22 days over four decades. Both R. pipiens and Bufo americanus have advanced initiation of calling over a four-decade span significantly earlier by an estimated 37.2 and 19.2 days, respectively. Rana sylvatica showed a trend toward earlier emergence by 19 days, whereas we did not detect changes in emergence phenology for the remaining five species. This significant shift in breeding behavior for two species correlates to significant regional increases in spring temperatures of an estimated 2.7–2.8°C overall over four decades. Our study suggests that local temperature increases have affected the timing of emergence and the onset of calling activity in some Ontario anuran species. Global decline or range shifts ultimately may be related to changes in reproductive behavior and timing mediated by shifting climate.
Anuran; calling activity; climate change; emergence; precipitation; reproductive timing; temperature
Effective acoustic communication in the face of intense conspecific background noise constitutes a constant sensory challenge in chorusing and colonial species. An evolutionary approach suggests that behavioural and environmental constraints in these species should have shaped signal design and signalling behaviour to enable communication in noisy conditions. This could be attained both through the use of multicomponent signals and through short-term adjustments in the spatial separation of calling males. We investigated these two hypotheses in a chorusing anuran, the hylid Hyla arborea, through a series of phonotaxis experiments conducted within a six-speaker arena in a high background noise situation, by presenting females with male calls containing either single or multiple attractive call components, and by modifying distances between speakers. We found that female ability to discriminate attractive calls increased when several attractive call components were available, providing novel evidence that the use of multicomponent signals enhances communication in complex acoustic conditions. Signal discrimination in females also improved with speaker separation, demonstrating that within natural choruses, spatial unmasking conditioned by male density and spatial separation probably improves female discrimination of competing males. Implications of these results for the accuracy of mate choice within choruses are discussed.
sexual selection; background noise; multiple signals; mate choice; anurans
Divergence of acoustic signals in a geographic scale results from diverse evolutionary forces acting in parallel and affecting directly inter-male vocal interactions among disjunct populations. Pleurodema thaul is a frog having an extensive latitudinal distribution in Chile along which males' advertisement calls exhibit an important variation. Using the playback paradigm we studied the evoked vocal responses of males of three populations of P. thaul in Chile, from northern, central and southern distribution. In each population, males were stimulated with standard synthetic calls having the acoustic structure of local and foreign populations. Males of both northern and central populations displayed strong vocal responses when were confronted with the synthetic call of their own populations, giving weaker responses to the call of the southern population. The southern population gave stronger responses to calls of the northern population than to the local call. Furthermore, males in all populations were stimulated with synthetic calls for which the dominant frequency, pulse rate and modulation depth were varied parametrically. Individuals from the northern and central populations gave lower responses to a synthetic call devoid of amplitude modulation relative to stimuli containing modulation depths between 30–100%, whereas the southern population responded similarly to all stimuli in this series. Geographic variation in the evoked vocal responses of males of P. thaul underlines the importance of inter-male interactions in driving the divergence of the acoustic traits and contributes evidence for a role of intra-sexual selection in the evolution of the sound communication system of this anuran.
Social decision making involves the perception and processing of social stimuli, the subsequent evaluation of that information in the context of the individual's internal and external milieus to produce a decision, and then culminates in behavioural output informed by that decision. We examined brain networks in an anuran communication system that relies on acoustic signals to guide simple, stereotyped motor output. We used egr-1 mRNA expression to measure neural activation in male túngara frogs, Physalaemus pustulosus, following exposure to conspecific and heterospecific calls that evoke competitive or aggressive behaviour. We found that acoustically driven activation in auditory brainstem nuclei is transformed into activation related to sensory–motor interactions in the diencephalon, followed by motor-related activation in the telencephalon. Furthermore, under baseline conditions, brain nuclei typically have correlated egr-1 mRNA levels within brain divisions. Hearing conspecific advertisement calls increases correlations between anatomically distant brain divisions; no such effect was observed in response to calls that elicit aggressive behaviour. Neural correlates of social decision making thus take multiple forms: (i) a progressive shift from sensory to motor encoding from lower to higher stages of neural processing and (ii) the emergence of correlated activation patterns among sensory and motor regions in response to behaviourally relevant social cues.
immediate-early gene; túngara frog; social decisions; functional connectivity; effective connectivity; sensorimotor integration
To understand the evolution of acoustic communication in animals, it is important to distinguish between the structure and the usage of vocal signals, since both aspects are subject to different constraints. In terrestrial mammals, the structure of calls is largely innate, while individuals have a greater ability to actively initiate or withhold calls. In closely related taxa, one would therefore predict a higher flexibility in call usage compared to call structure. In the present study, we investigated the vocal repertoire of free living Guinea baboons (Papio papio) and examined the structure and usage of the animals’ vocal signals. Guinea baboons live in a complex multi-level social organization and exhibit a largely tolerant and affiliative social style, contrary to most other baboon taxa. To classify the vocal repertoire of male and female Guinea baboons, cluster analyses were used and focal observations were conducted to assess the usage of vocal signals in the particular contexts.
In general, the vocal repertoire of Guinea baboons largely corresponded to the vocal repertoire other baboon taxa. The usage of calls, however, differed considerably from other baboon taxa and corresponded with the specific characteristics of the Guinea baboons’ social behaviour. While Guinea baboons showed a diminished usage of contest and display vocalizations (a common pattern observed in chacma baboons), they frequently used vocal signals during affiliative and greeting interactions.
Our study shows that the call structure of primates is largely unaffected by the species’ social system (including grouping patterns and social interactions), while the usage of calls can be more flexibly adjusted, reflecting the quality of social interactions of the individuals. Our results support the view that the primary function of social signals is to regulate social interactions, and therefore the degree of competition and cooperation may be more important to explain variation in call usage than grouping patterns or group size.
Evolution; Vocal communication; Call structure; Call usage; Guinea baboon; Social complexity; Competition