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Sexual Signaling in Periodical Cicadas, Magicicada spp. (Hemiptera: Cicadidae)

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Periodical cicada (Magicicada spp.) sexual pair formation takes place in dense aggregations and involves intense male-male competition for limited mating opportunities. Pair-forming behavior in these species has been poorly understood because of limited knowledge of sexual communication. We have found that sexually receptive female Magicicada flick their wings in timed response to an individual chorusing male; this previously unrecognized female response is hereafter referred to as a 'wing-flick' signal. We document the nature, timing, and species-specificity of this signal as well as its absence in both immature and mated females. We also document changes in male chorusing and searching behavior in response to wing-flick signals and male responses to the signals' visual and acoustical components. We test the hypothesis that female sensory psychology has shaped the evolution of-decim calls by favoring frequency-modulated male calls that are more readily distinguishable in an intense background chorus. Within mating aggregations, male Magicicada attempt to usurp ongoing courtships and also engage in interference competition by acoustically obscuring the calls of potential interlopers, reducing the likelihood of a female response.

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