Journal of Ethology

, Volume 33, Issue 2, pp 87–107 | Cite as

Stonefly duets: vibrational sexual mimicry can explain complex patterns

  • Louis BoumansEmail author
  • Arild Johnsen


Stoneflies of the suborder Arctoperlaria exchange vibration signals for intersexual communication. The exchange takes the form of a duet with a male Call and female Answer. Some species and populations have three-way duets, with the male responding to the Answer with a third signal, termed Reply. We review duet descriptions of 106 species in terms of their temporal organisation and mate guarding tactics as identified by Bailey (2003), and propose a functional explanation in terms of concealment of the female for three recurrent phenomena: (1) In the case of large temporal overlap between Call and Answer, the overlapping part of the Call masks the Answer; (2) In three-way duets, the Reply mimics the female; (3) In a Call with two distinct phases, one phase mimics the female. It turns out that the Reply can be interpreted as mimicking the Answer in virtually all three-way duets. In two-way duets with a diphasic Call, the first phase typically mimics the Answer. Three-way duets with a diphasic Call are heterogeneous. Evidence for eavesdropping behaviour comes from the observation that males of the genus Zwicknia produce a Call in response to duetting sequences more often than in response to single male Call signals. We conclude with proposals for further research.


Concealment Mate guarding Eavesdropping Plecoptera Vibrational communication Duet Sexual mimicry 



We thank Becky Cramer (University of Oslo), John E. Brittain (University of Oslo), Steffen Roth (University of Bergen) as well as two anonymous reviewers for Journal of Ethology for their valuable corrections and feedback on a manuscript version of this paper.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 219 kb)


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Copyright information

© Japan Ethological Society and Springer Japan 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Natural History MuseumUniversity of OsloOsloNorway

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