Insect duets: underlying mechanisms and their evolution

Win Bailey

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    145 Citations (Scopus)


    Duetting between the sexes in insects involves the use of airborne acoustic signals, substrate vibration and bioluminescence. Unlike avian duets, in which females may initiate the interaction, among insects the duet starts with the male, and the female usually provides a brief reply. Insect duets are characterized by low variance in the reply latency of the female ( the time between a key element in the male call and the onset of the female's response). Duetting is reviewed principally in Orthoptera but also in Plecoptera, Hemiptera, Neuroptera and bioluminescence in the Coleoptera. The mechanisms of the duet are examined first, followed by evolution and the associated change in searching strategies of each sex. As defined, the duet has distinct temporal characteristics and these are compared with acoustic interactions among males in those species that exhibit male - male synchrony and alternation. For insects, the key element of a duet for species' recognition is low variance in the reply latency of females. In cases in which the male's initiating signal is extremely short, reply latencies become indicators of species' recognition. However, in those species in which the initiating male call is under selection through female choice, the male call is predictably longer and occasionally more complex. Under these circumstances, reply latencies often increase, creating an opportunity for alternative male tactics. When alternative tactics exist in nature, males may decrease the intensity of their call, insert a trigger pulse that signals to the female the end of its complex call, or males may even add a masking signal that obscures the competing
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)157-174
    JournalPhysiological Entomology
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 2003


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