Spatio-Temporal Dynamics of Field Cricket Calling Behaviour: Implications for Female Mate Search and Mate Choice
Amount of calling activity (calling effort) is a strong determinant of male mating success in species such as orthopterans and anurans that use acoustic communication in the context of mating behaviour. While many studies in crickets have investigated the determinants of calling effort, patterns of variability in male calling effort in natural choruses remain largely unexplored. Within-individual variability in calling activity across multiple nights of calling can influence female mate search and mate choice strategies. Moreover, calling site fidelity across multiple nights of calling can also affect the female mate sampling strategy. We therefore investigated the spatio-temporal dynamics of acoustic signaling behaviour in a wild population of the field cricket species Plebeiogryllus guttiventris. We first studied the consistency of calling activity by quantifying variation in male calling effort across multiple nights of calling using repeatability analysis. Callers were inconsistent in their calling effort across nights and did not optimize nightly calling effort to increase their total number of nights spent calling. We also estimated calling site fidelity of males across multiple nights by quantifying movement of callers. Callers frequently changed their calling sites across calling nights with substantial displacement but without any significant directionality. Finally, we investigated trade-offs between within-night calling effort and energetically expensive calling song features such as call intensity and chirp rate. Calling effort was not correlated with any of the calling song features, suggesting that energetically expensive song features do not constrain male calling effort. The two key features of signaling behaviour, calling effort and call intensity, which determine the duration and spatial coverage of the sexual signal, are therefore uncorrelated and function independently.