Journal of Insect Behavior

, Volume 31, Issue 6, pp 599–615 | Cite as

Substrate-Borne Vibration Mediates Intrasexual Agonism in the New Zealand Cook Strait Giant Weta (Deinacrida rugosa)

  • Daniel R. HowardEmail author
  • Ashley P. Schmidt
  • Carrie L. Hall
  • Andrew C. Mason


Substrate-borne vibrational communication is a common mode of information transfer in many invertebrate groups, with vibration serving as both primary and secondary signal channels in Orthopterans. The Cook Strait giant weta, Deinacrida rugosa (Orthoptera: Anostostomatidae), is an endangered New Zealand insect whose communication system has not been previously described. After field observations of intraspecific interactions in D. rugosa provided preliminary evidence for substrate-borne vibrational communication in the species, we sought to identify the following: vibrational signal structure, the mechanism of signal production, whether signal production is a sexually dimorphic trait, whether substrate-borne signals encode information regarding sender size, the primary social context in which vibration is utilized and finally, the function of vibrational signaling in the species. We used laser Doppler vibrometry to show that D. rugosa males produce low frequency (DF = 37.00 ± 1.63 Hz) substrate-borne vibrations through dorso-ventral tremulation. Rarely produced by females, male signals appear to target rivals while both are in the direct physical presence of a female. Tremulatory responses to playbacks were only produced by males in male-male-female trial contexts, and neither sex exhibited walking vibrotaxis to playback signals, indicating that substrate-borne vibrational signals are not likely a component of the courtship repertoire. While we found that vibrational signal structure was not closely related to signaler size, males that initiated male-male signaling bouts held a significant advantage in contests.


Agonism Deinacrida rugosa giant weta substrate-borne signals; vibrational communication seismic signals 



Funding for this study was provided by the U.S. National Science Foundation to DRH (NSF #1237606), from the Orthopterists Society to APS. Research space was kindly provided by Victoria University of Wellington. We thank Jo Greenman and Matt Sidaway (NZDOC) for field site logistical support, George Gibbs (VUW) for helpful experimental design suggestions, and thank the Te Atiawa, Taranaki, Ngati Tama, and Ngati Ruanui Maori Iwi for approval and support of this research.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

All research was carried out under the approval of the Animal Ethics Committees of the University Toronto Scarborough and Augustana College, under the Authority of New Zealand Department of Conservation Low Impact Permits #WE-280-RES and #WE-32885-RES issued to DRH, and with the approval of the indigenous stakeholders, the Taranaki Whanui - Port Nicholson Settlement Trust.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesUniversity of New HampshireDurhamUSA
  2. 2.University of South Dakota Sanford School of MedicineVermillionUSA
  3. 3.Department of Biological SciencesUniversity of Toronto at ScarboroughTorontoCanada

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