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Courtship Communication in Meadow Katydids: Female Preference for Large Male Vibrations

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Males of the katydid Conocephalus nigropleurum (Orthoptera: Tettigoniidae) shake their body to produce a substrate-borne vibratory signal in the context of courtship and mate attraction. We measured the physical parameters of this tremulation signal and then tested its effectiveness in eliciting taxis by virgin females. We also investigated the role of these vibrations in the choices made by females of larger males as mates. A search for correlations between male weight and vibratory signal parameters revealed a strong negative relationship to inter-pulse interval (ipi). In two-choice playback experiments females oriented towards tremulation vibration when it was the only vibration stimulus provided. In further playback experiments females also distinguished conspecific tremulation from a control vibration. When offered simultaneous presentations of tremulation signals that differed in ipi, females moved toward the stimulus with the shorter ipi indicative of a larger male. This is the first study to demonstrate that tremulation signalling by male katydids encodes critical information on body size, and that females discriminate among different vibratory signals in favour of those indicating a larger male.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Zoology and Erindale College, University of Toronto, 3359 Mississauga Road North, Mississauga, Ontario, L5L IC6, Canada

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