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Research Approaches in Mechanosensory-Cued Hatching

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Part of the Animal Signals and Communication book series (ANISIGCOM,volume 8)

Abstract

Mechanosensory-cued hatching (MCH) is widespread, diverse, and important for survival in many animals. Disturbance by predators elicits escape-hatching. Agitation by hosts stimulates parasite hatching. Sibling movements and parental vibrations synchronize hatching. Abiotic vibrations inform embryos of habitat conditions. Tests for MCH often use manual disturbance or mechanical vibrations from lab mixers; controlled vibration playbacks to embryos are rare. Our research with terrestrial embryos of red-eyed treefrogs illustrates how challenges and requirements of playbacks differ with embryos vs. post-hatching animals. Most vibrations salient to embryos are generated by direct forcing of eggs or egg masses, not transmitted via other substrates; thus they are shaped by egg and clutch mechanics. Most are highly variable incidental cues, not stereotyped signals, yet embryos distinguish among vibration sources. The necessary robustness of decision rules for incidental cues means even imperfect playbacks may be sufficient for initial studies of embryo behavior. Improvements in playback quality must address constraints of embryo development and behavior, as well as mechanics. We describe a series of playback systems we designed for red-eyed treefrog embryos, their merits and limitations, and what experiments with each have revealed about escape-hatching behavior. We discuss the iterative development of a new system for rearing eggs in trays and coupling them to shakers for motion, tactile, and bimodal mechanosensory playbacks, and the advances in understanding behavioral ontogeny this system has enabled. Mechanosensory-cued hatching offers excellent, untapped opportunities for playback experiments to advance our understanding of embryo behavior and how animals use incidental cues to inform behavior.

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Warkentin, K.M., Jung, J., McDaniel, J.G. (2022). Research Approaches in Mechanosensory-Cued Hatching. In: Hill, P.S.M., Mazzoni, V., Stritih-Peljhan, N., Virant-Doberlet, M., Wessel, A. (eds) Biotremology: Physiology, Ecology, and Evolution. Animal Signals and Communication, vol 8. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-97419-0_7

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