Graduate Thesis Or Dissertation

 

The role of acoustical signals in the communicative behavior of the water scavenger beetles, Tropisternus (Coleoptera:hydrophilidae) Public Deposited

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  • The communicative behavior of five species and subspecies of Tropisternus Solier (Coleoptera: Hydrophilidae) was studied. These aquatic beetles have stress and calling chirps (both sexes), a second male calling signal (one species), a single male courtship sound (usually), a male copulatory sound, and a female aggressive rejection buzz (three species). Males utilize visual, not acoustical, clues to orient towards females at close range. Males court females with stereotyped movements, sounds, and tactile signals while positioned dorsally on the female. The role of chemical signals in recognition of sexual readiness, sex, or species remains unclear. A mark-release field study of T. ellipticus ruled out aggregation and territorial behavior as possible functions of acoustic signals. This species, at least, wanders freely and has no home range. Acoustic courtship signals were stereotyped, i.e., the same signal was always produced by males in particular positions of courtship, in T. natator and T. columbianus, but variable in T. ellipticus and two subspecies of T. lateralis. Experiments using models of beetles indicated that visual stimuli can release a calling chirp response and an approach in both sexes, or a courtship sound and an approach in males. Results of experiments utilizing broadcasts of tape recorded signals established that Tropisternus can hear water-borne acoustic signals even though auditory receptors are as yet unknown in Coleoptera. Males of T. natator and T. lateralis nimbatus discriminated female calling chirps from other acoustic signals. Female calling chirps stimulated males to emit calling chirps, to cease feeding and begin swimming, and to approach models of beetles (searching behavior). Males of T. ellipticus and T. lateralis limbalis, species from populations in western Oregon, did not respond predictably to acoustic signals. T. natator and T. lateralis nimbatus, which responded to calling chirps, are from populations in southern Michigan, where four species of Tropisternus share breeding sites. In contrast, the three species in western Oregon probably breed in different microhabitats. The lack of mating interference between species in western Oregon may have allowed the loosening of stereotypy in courtship seen in T. ellipticus and the degeneration of the calling function of acoustic signals seen in T. ellipticus and T. lateralis limbalis.
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