, Volume 199, Issue 2, pp 151-157

Pre-existing sensory biases in the spectral domain in frogs: empirical results and methodological considerations

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Abstract

In many species of anurans, advertisement calls excite only one of the two inner-ear organs. One prediction of the pre-existing bias hypothesis is that signal innovations that additionally excite the “untapped” organ will be more behaviorally effective than normal calls. However, recent studies have shown that females of three species with single-peaked calls that stimulate only the basilar papilla (BP) preferred single-peaked synthetic calls with a frequency typical of conspecific calls to two-peaked calls that also stimulated the amphibian papilla (AP). We report that in spring peepers (Pseudacris crucifer) that also produce single-peaked calls, females did not show a preference in choices between single-peaked and two-peaked synthetic calls. Thus, the addition of energy exciting the AP had a neutral effect on signal attractiveness. Together, these results are unsupportive of the pre-existing bias hypothesis. An alternative hypothesis is that positive fitness consequences of responding to sounds providing extraordinary spectral stimulation are required for a novel call to become established as a mate-attracting signal. Testing these ideas requires a taxonomically broader examination of responses to sounds with novel spectral complexity, and attention to some methodological details will improve the comparability of such studies.