The effectiveness of katydid (Neoconocephalus ensiger) song cessation as antipredator defence against the gleaning bat Myotis septentrionalis

Abstract

Many nocturnal katydids (Orthoptera: Tettigoniidae) produce intense calling songs, and some bat species use these songs to detect and locate prey. One Nearctic katydid species, Neoconocephalus ensiger, ceases or pauses singing in response to bat echolocation calls. We tested the hypothesis that song cessation is an effective defence against gleaning bats (i.e., bats that take prey from surfaces). We observed Myotis septentrionalis, a sympatric bat species that uses prey-generated sounds when gleaning, attack and feed on singing N. ensiger in an outdoor flight room. These bats demonstrated a preference for the calling song of N. ensiger over a novel cricket calling song when they were broadcast from a speaker in the flight room. Bats attacked speakers broadcasting N. ensiger calling song as long as the song was continuous and aborted their attack if the sound stopped as they approached, regardless of whether a katydid was present as a physical target on the speaker. Echolocation calls were recorded during attacks and no significant differences were found between continuous and interrupted song approaches for four call parameters, suggesting that M. septentrionalis may not use echolocation to locate silent prey. Therefore, song cessation by katydids in response to ultrasound is an effective defence against gleaning bats.

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Acknowledgements

We are grateful for the accommodations and facilities provided by the Queen’s University Biological Station during this project and to Frank Phelan for logistical support. Thanks to Reese Arh and Maria Naccarato for field assistance and Peter Wall for the custom MATLAB sound-generating application. The manuscript was improved by comments from Rob Baker, Brock Fenton, Holger Görlitz, Darryl Gwynne, and an anonymous reviewer. Funding was provided by a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Discovery grant to JHF, an NSERC postgraduate scholarship to HMtH, an NSERC postdoctoral fellowship to JMR, and an NIH grant to Ron Hoy (Cornell University). The protocols used in this study conformed to the guidelines of the Canadian Council on Animal Care and were approved by the animal care committees of the University of Toronto Mississauga and Queen’s University. Legal permission to capture bats was obtained from the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (Wildlife Scientific Collector’s Authorisation No. 1031919).

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Correspondence to Hannah M. ter Hofstede.

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Communicated by L. Simmons

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ter Hofstede, H.M., Ratcliffe, J.M. & Fullard, J.H. The effectiveness of katydid (Neoconocephalus ensiger) song cessation as antipredator defence against the gleaning bat Myotis septentrionalis . Behav Ecol Sociobiol 63, 217–226 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00265-008-0652-y

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Keywords

  • Antipredator behaviour
  • Echolocation
  • Gleaning
  • Tettigoniidae
  • Chiroptera