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If you wander outside on these late summer nights, you might hear the din of calling songs from field crickets. Male crickets produce these songs to attract their mates—but they may also draw the attention of acoustically orienting parasitiod flies. The fly Ormia ochracea has evolved directionally sensitive ears to eavesdrop on the communication signals of field crickets. Crickets that are parasitized by these flies face almost certain death. How these flies recognize cricket songs and whether crickets can change their love songs to avoid parasitism is unknown.
A new study by Dr. Norman Lee, in collaboration with St. Olaf College students Alexander Kirtley '19, Isaiah Pressman '19, and Karina (Kari) Jirik '20, and University of Toronto collaborators Dean Koucoulas and Dr. Andrew C. Mason, show a novel approach that can be used to study song recognition in O. ochracea. Their work is published as part of a special research topic called "How Enemies Shape Communication Systems: Sensory Strategies of Prey to Avoid Eavesdropping Predators and Parasites" featured in Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution.
Approach - Performance - Index - Treadmill - System
This approach relies on using a newly developed performance index and a treadmill system to measure how well flies respond to different cricket songs.
"This is an exciting advance because the approach can be broadly applied to better understand the sensory basis of song recognition, signal discrimination, learning and memory, and...
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