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Substrate-Borne Vibrational Signals in Mating Communication of Macrolophus Bugs

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The mirid bugs Macrolophus pygmaeus and M. costalis use substrate-borne vibrational signals during pair formation and in male-male interactions as determined by laser vibrometry. The vibrational communication of Macrolophus is more complex than in other mirids, with a signal repertoire composed of two elements, only produced by males, while the females are mute. The “yelp” signal consists of one or several consecutive brief pulses with harmonic structure and is commonly produced by stationary males before mating, as a key-element of courtship. “Yelping” is also associated with contacts between males. The “roar” signal differs from “yelps” in that it has a broadband frequency pattern, a longer and more variable duration than “yelping”, and is produced by males in association with walking on the leaf. Playback experiments did not affect male vibration emission, but when “roaring” was used as stimulus, it elicited a significant increase in the time spent walking. We detected significant differences between M. costalis and M. pygmaeus in some spectral parameters of the “roar” and “yelp” signals, so these signals could contain species-specific information. We conclude that “roaring” and “yelping” vibrational signals are used by Macrolophus in social communication, in particular in the context of mating behavior.

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CG was funded by an Erasmus Training Grant. OA was funded by the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness (MINECO) (Project AGL2011-24349).

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Correspondence to César Gemeno.

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Loading insects on the plant. The insect is sucked into the aspirator which is brought into contact with the plant. If the individual is slow at leaving the aspirator a movable plunge is used to help it to exit. The release process has to be done very slowly because if the individuals are overexcited they may not stay on the plant and will walk or fly away. (MPG 1754 kb)

Generic sounds. Vibrations produced by a) a male walking on the leaf and “not roaring” and the same male walking on the same leaf and “roaring”, b) a male-female pair mating, and c) a female inserting an egg in the main vein of the leaf. (MPG 14022 kb)

Male “yelp” posture. A male is standing on the edge of the leaf with the legs stretched out. He “yelps” several times. Each time that he “yelps” his legs are slightly flexed. It is a very faint movement and it may need watching it several times to clearly distinguish it. (MPG 528 kb)

Two males. Two males are walking on a leaf and producing multiple “roaring” and “yelping”. Occasionally they contact with each other and this elicits “yelping”. Notice the two reflective stickers placed on the leaf. One of them is reflecting the laser beam from the laser vibrometer (red dot). (MPG 10058 kb)

Mating. A male (below) contacts a female (above) and “yelps”. The female shakes her body and the male walks away. After a few seconds the male (left) turns around and approaches the female (right) as he “roars”. He contacts her with the antennae, then he “yelps” and immediately mounts her. (MPG 2142 kb)

Close-up mating with immobilized female. A female (left) is immobilized by squeezing her head with forceps. A male approaches her (right) and after contacting her with his antennae he starts to “yelp”. There is a second male on the leaf that also “yelps” and approaches the scene (far left) as he “roars”. The “yelps” from each male can be distinguished. The male that is with the female produces a higher pitch “yelp” than the other male. The male that is contacting the female with the antennae turns around, produces 4 “yelps” and mates with the immobilized female. After the couple has formed, the other male “yelps” 3 times. (MPG 1540 kb)

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Gemeno, C., Baldo, G., Nieri, R. et al. Substrate-Borne Vibrational Signals in Mating Communication of Macrolophus Bugs. J Insect Behav 28, 482–498 (2015).

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