Do frog-eating bats perceptually bind the complex components of frog calls?

Abstract

The mating calls of male túngara frogs, Physalaemus pustulosus, attract intended (conspecific females) and unintended (eavesdropping predators and parasites) receivers. The calls are complex, having two components: a frequency-modulated “whine” followed by 0–7 harmonic bursts or “chucks”. The whine is necessary and sufficient to elicit phonotaxis from females and the chuck enhances call attractiveness when it follows a whine. Although chucks are never made alone, females perceptually bind the whine and chuck when they are spatially separated. We tested whether an unintended receiver with independent evolution of phonotaxis, the frog-eating bat, Trachops cirrhosus, has converged with frogs in its auditory grouping of the call components. In contrast to frogs, bats approached chucks broadcast alone; when the chuck was spatially separated from the whine the bats preferentially approached the whine, and bats were sensitive to whine–chuck temporal sequence. This contrast suggests that although disparate taxa may be selected to respond to the same signals, different evolutionary histories, selective regimes, and neural and cognitive architectures may result in different weighting and grouping of signal components between generalist predators and conspecific mates.

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Acknowledgments

We thank the staff of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute for assistance with permits and logistics. This research was approved by the Panamanian Authorities (Autoridad Nacional del Ambiente, ANAM permit # SE/A-91-09; SE/A-95-10; SE/A-6-11; SE/A-46-11; SE/A-94-11) and the Smithsonian Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC protocol 20100816-1012-16). Thanks to Victoria Flores, Teia Schwiezer, Jay Falk, Kristina Ottens, May Dixon and Jessica Jacobitz for help capturing and caring for bats. Thanks to Teague O’Mara for statistical advice. PLJ was funded by a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship and fellowship support from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. HEF was funded by National Institute of Health grant # P20RR016816.

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Correspondence to Patricia L. Jones.

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Jones, P.L., Farris, H.E., Ryan, M.J. et al. Do frog-eating bats perceptually bind the complex components of frog calls?. J Comp Physiol A 199, 279–283 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00359-012-0791-5

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Keywords

  • Phonotaxis
  • Physalaemus pustulosus
  • Sexual advertisement signal
  • Túngara
  • Trachops cirrhosus