Ecology of acoustic signalling and the problem of masking interference in insects

Abstract

The efficiency of long-distance acoustic signalling of insects in their natural habitat is constrained in several ways. Acoustic signals are not only subjected to changes imposed by the physical structure of the habitat such as attenuation and degradation but also to masking interference from co-occurring signals of other acoustically communicating species. Masking interference is likely to be a ubiquitous problem in multi-species assemblages, but successful communication in natural environments under noisy conditions suggests powerful strategies to deal with the detection and recognition of relevant signals. In this review we present recent work on the role of the habitat as a driving force in shaping insect signal structures. In the context of acoustic masking interference, we discuss the ecological niche concept and examine the role of acoustic resource partitioning in the temporal, spatial and spectral domains as sender strategies to counter masking. We then examine the efficacy of different receiver strategies: physiological mechanisms such as frequency tuning, spatial release from masking and gain control as useful strategies to counteract acoustic masking. We also review recent work on the effects of anthropogenic noise on insect acoustic communication and the importance of insect sounds as indicators of biodiversity and ecosystem health.

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Acknowledgments

The authors thank the Austrian Science Foundation (FWF; P20882-B09) and the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India, for supporting research projects conducted in Panama and India, respectively. They thank Jerome Sueur for help with locating interesting publications on paleobioacoustics and Diptarup Nandi for drawing the illustration in Fig. 1.

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Correspondence to Arne K. D. Schmidt.

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Schmidt, A.K.D., Balakrishnan, R. Ecology of acoustic signalling and the problem of masking interference in insects. J Comp Physiol A 201, 133–142 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00359-014-0955-6

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Keywords

  • Acoustic masking interference
  • Acoustic niche partitioning
  • Acoustic adaptation
  • Cricket and katydid assemblage
  • Insect acoustic communication