Tree crickets 2 optimize the acoustics of baffles to exaggerate their mate-attraction signal
18 December 2017
Object manufacture in insects is typically inherited and believed to be highly stereotyped.
Object manufacture in insects is typically inherited and believed to be highly stereotyped. Optimization, the ability to select the functionally best material and modify it appropriately for a specific function, implies flexibility and is usually thought to be incompatible with inherited behaviour. Here we show that tree-crickets optimize acoustic baffles, objects that are used to increase the effective loudness of mate-attraction calls. We quantified the acoustic efficiency of all baffles within the naturally feasible design space using finite-element modelling and found that design affects efficiency significantly. We tested the baffle-making behaviour of tree crickets in a series of experimental contexts. We found that given the opportunity, tree crickets optimised baffle acoustics; they selected the best-sized object and modified it appropriately to make a near optimal baffle. Surprisingly, optimization could be achieved in a single attempt and is likely to be achieved through an inherited yet highly accurate behavioural heuristic.
Authors: Natasha Mhatre, Robert Malkin, Rittik Deb, Rohini Balakrishnan, Daniel Robert