Phenotypic plasticity can be adaptive when phenotypes are closely matched to changes in the environment. In crickets, rhythmic fluctuations in the biotic and abiotic environment regularly result in diel rhythms in density of sexually active individuals. Given that density strongly influences the intensity of sexual selection, we asked whether crickets exhibit plasticity in signaling behavior that aligns with these rhythmic fluctuations in the socio-sexual environment. We quantified the acoustic mate signaling behavior of wild-caught males of two cricket species, Gryllus veletis and G. pennsylvanicus. Crickets exhibited phenotypically plastic mate signaling behavior, with most males signaling more often and more attractively during the times of day when mating activity is highest in the wild. Most male G. pennsylvanicus chirped more often and louder, with shorter interpulse durations, pulse periods, chirp durations, and interchirp durations, and at slightly higher carrier frequencies during the time of the day that mating activity is highest in the wild. Similarly, most male G. veletis chirped more often, with more pulses per chirp, longer interpulse durations, pulse periods, and chirp durations, shorter interchirp durations, and at lower carrier frequencies during the time of peak mating activity in the wild. Among-male variation in signaling plasticity was high, with some males signaling in an apparently maladaptive manner. Body size explained some of the among-male variation in G. pennsylvanicus plasticity but not G. veletis plasticity. Overall, our findings suggest that crickets exhibit phenotypically plastic mate attraction signals that closely match the fluctuating socio-sexual context they experience.
Department of Biology

Bertram, S.M, L.P. Fitzsimmons (Lauren P.), Harrison, Sarah J., & Thomson, Ian R. (2013). Adaptive Plasticity in Wild Field Cricket's Acoustic Signaling. PLoS ONE, 8(7). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0069247