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Types of signals

Technical information

Types of signals produced by planthoppersMost signals on this website are classified as 'male calling signals'. These signals are produced spontaneously by single males which are not in contact with other males or females, and which also have been kept isolated for a certain period prior to the recording session. To understand the reasons for this, it is necessary to briefly explain a few elementary aspects of the role of acoustic signalling in the mating biology of planthoppers.Planthoppers may produce different types of vibration signals, depending on their sex and the behavioural context involved.Vibration signals are only produced by adult males and females. However, it will usually take a few days after their final moult to the adult stage before they are 'mature' and able or willing to produce any signals. In a natural situation signalling behaviour starts with a mature male exploring its habitat in search for mating receptive females. A male does so by actively moving around in the vegetation while regularly emitting so-called 'advertisement calls' . A female planthopper can only receive signals from a calling male when there is contact between the substrate on which the female is sitting and the substrate on which the male is calling. Once a male calling signal has been received by a conspecific mating receptive female she will usually respond immediately by emitting her female response call. The male, after receiving the female response call, in turn will increase his calling activity and start a more agitated searching behaviour in order to locate the female. The female, which also intensifies her female response signalling, usually does not move from her position and waits for the male to approach her. During this stage of long-range alternate calling there is no visual contact between male and female. Once the male has located the female the stage of close-range courtship starts. During courtship there is again an intensive exchange of vibration signals, but these 'courtship signals' may contain various sorts of new and different signal elements. During courthip behaviour also visual and tactile signals may be involved. After male and female have successfully mated the female generally will stop all signalling activity; in most cases a single mating will be sufficient for fertilizing all of her eggs. The male, however, is able to mate several times and thus (after a while) will resume emitting his advertisement calls and continue his search for other unmated females. Because male planthoppers have the natural habit to produce advertisement calls spontaneously, and because advertisement calls play a key role in species recognition by the female, it makes sense to focus our acoustic studies on the advertisement calls produced by single males, especially when working with field collected planthoppers. Females, in contrast, will generally only produce signals when stimulated by male signals and, moreover, only when they have not mated before, which will be difficult to know when dealing with field collected material. The female vibration signals which are recorded for some groups (Javesella, Muellerianella, Ribautodelphax, Chloriona) are all acquired by using unmated females from laboratory cultures, which were stimulated to respond to play-back of pre-recorded male signals (see respective literature for further details). Finally a last type of vibration signals has to be distinguished: distress or rivalry signals. This type of signal is emitted by males of some species when confronted with other (conspecific) males. Sometimes also single isolated males can be found to emit distress signals, possibly because they have not yet recovered sufficiently from a stressful situation prior to the recording session. For this reason it is recommended to isolate planthoppers individually for a certain time before recording attempts are being made.

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