Complex courtship in a bimodal grasshopper hybrid zone


Grasshoppers of the Chorthippus albomarginatus-group, which is outstanding with respect to its complex courtship song, were studied at fifteen localities in the Ukraine and Moldova. The analysis of the courtship songs revealed two species: C. albomarginatus in north-eastern Ukraine and Chorthippus oschei in the south-western Ukraine and Moldova. In a belt about 200 km wide, not only were one or the other pure species found, but also males with intermediate song characters. C. albomarginatus and C. oschei were hybridised in the laboratory, and F1 hybrid males as well as F2 hybrid males produced intermediate song patterns, quite similar to those recorded in the field. We defined a "hybrid song score" for intermediate songs. The score showed a bimodal distribution with most songs resembling one or other parental type, but with only a few intermediates. At several localities, where hybrids with songs similar to one of the parental species dominated, some individual males sang more similarly to the other species. In one locality, two hybrid populations only 3 km apart had different parental types. Hybrid songs can contain novel elements, even more complex than the parental ones, which may offer a new starting point for sexual selection. We suggest that genetic introgression occurs between the two sibling species C. albomarginatus and C. oschei within a wide hybrid zone stretching over a distance of several hundred kilometres, but with a patchy spatial distribution.

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We thank Nikolai Mugue, Boris Medvedovskii, Ruth Walther, Tatjana Troshina and Oleg Podgornyi for their help in grasshopper collection in Ukraine. Kirill M. Orci supplied us with grasshoppers from Hungary. Our thanks to Maria Bauer and Wolfram Schulze for technical help in recording and preparation of the figures and video-clips, and to Dagmar von Helversen, Frieder Mayer, Nikolai Mugue and Fer Willemse for critical and helpful discussions. We are much indebted to Roger Butlin and three anonymous reviewers for comments that improved the manuscript. The research was supported by grants from INTAS, DAAD and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation.

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Correspondence to V. Y. Vedenina.

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Communicated by D. Gwynne

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Vedenina, V.Y., von Helversen, O. Complex courtship in a bimodal grasshopper hybrid zone. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 54, 44–54 (2003) doi:10.1007/s00265-003-0595-2

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  • Bimodal hybrid zone
  • Courtship song
  • Stridulatory pattern
  • Temporal song parameters
  • Sexual selection