Multimodal signal variation in space and time : how important is matching a signal with its signaler?
2011-03-01, Taylor, Ryan C., Klein, Barrett, Stein, Joey, Ryan, Michael J.
Multimodal signals (acoustic+visual) are known to be used by many anuran amphibians during courtship displays. The relative degree to which each signal component influences female mate choice, however, remains poorly understood. In this study we used a robotic frog with an inflating vocal sac and acoustic playbacks to document responses of female túngara frogs to unimodal signal components (acoustic and visual). We then tested female responses to a synchronous multimodal signal. Finally, we tested the influence of spatial and temporal variation between signal components for female attraction. Females failed to approach the isolated visual cue of the robotic frog and they showed a significant preference for the call over the spatially separate robotic frog. When presented with a call that was temporally synchronous with the vocal sac inflation of the robotic frog, females did not show a significant preference for this over the call alone; when presented with a call that was temporally asynchronous with vocal sac inflation of the robotic frog, females discriminated strongly against the asynchronous multimodal signal in favor of the call alone. Our data suggest that although the visual cue is neither necessary nor sufficient for attraction, it can strongly modulate mate choice if females perceive a temporal disjunction relative to the primary acoustic signal.
Intersignal interaction and uncertain information in anuran multimodal signals
2011, Taylor, Ryan C., Klein, Barrett, Ryan, Michael J.
Disentangling the influence of multiple signal components on receivers and elucidating general processes influencing complex signal evolution are difficult tasks. In this study we test mate preferences of female squirrel treefrogs Hyla squirella and female túngara frogs Physalaemus pustulosus for similar combinations of acoustic and visual components of their multimodal courtship signals. In a two-choice playback experiment with squirrel treefrogs, the visual stimulus of a male model significantly increased the attractivness of a relatively unattractive slow call rate. A previous study demonstrated that faster call rates are more attractive to female squirrel treefrogs, and all else being equal, models of male frogs with large body stripes are more attractive. In a similar experiment with female túngara frogs, the visual stimulus of a robotic frog failed to increase the attractiveness of a relatively unattractive call. Females also showed no preference for the distinct stripe on the robot that males commonly bear on their throat. Thus, features of conspicuous signal components such as body stripes are not universally important and signal function is likely to differ even among species with similar ecologies and communication systems. Finally, we discuss the putative information content of anuran signals and suggest that the categorization of redundant versus multiple messages may not be sufficient as a general explanation for the evolution of multimodal signaling. Instead of relying on untested assumptions concerning the information content of signals, we discuss the value of initially collecting comparative empirical data sets related to receiver responses.