Advertisement-call preferences in diploid-tetraploid treefrogs (Hyla chrysoscelis and Hyla versicolor): implications for mate choice and the evolution of communication systems

Evolution. 2005 Feb;59(2):395-408.


Signals used for mate choice and receiver preferences are often assumed to coevolve in a lock-step fashion. However, sender-receiver coevolution can also be nonparallel: even if species differences in signals are mainly quantitative, females of some closely related species have qualitatively different preferences and underlying mechanisms. Two-alternative playback experiments using synthetic calls that differed in fine-scale temporal properties identified the receiver criteria in females of the treefrog Hyla chrysoscelis for comparison with female criteria in a cryptic tetraploid species (H. versicolor); detailed preference functions were also generated for both species based on natural patterns of variation in temporal properties. The species were similar in three respects: (1) pulses of constant frequency were as attractive as the frequency-modulated pulses typical of conspecific calls; (2) changes in preferences with temperature paralleled temperature-dependent changes in male calls; and (3) preference functions were unimodal, with weakly defined peaks estimated at values slightly higher than the estimated means in conspecific calls. There were also species differences: (1) preference function slopes were steeper in H. chrysoscelis than in H. versicolor; (2) preferences were more intensity independent in H. chrysoscelis than in H. versicolor; (3) a synergistic effect of differences in pulse rate and shape on preference strength occurred in H. versicolor but not in H. chrysoscelis; and (4) a preference for the pulse shape typical of conspecific calls was expressed at the species-typical pulse duration in H. versicolor but not in H. chrysoscelis. However, females of H. chrysoscelis did express a preference based on pulse shape when tested with longer-than-average pulses, suggesting a hypothesis that could account for some examples of nonparallel coevolution. Namely, preferences can be hidden or revealed depending on the direction of quantitative change in a signal property relative to the threshold for resolving differences in that property. The results of the experiments reported here also predict patterns of mate choice within and between contemporary populations. First, intraspecific mate choice in both species is expected to be strongly influenced by variation in temperature among calling males. Second, simultaneous differences in pulse rate and pulse shape are required for effective species discrimination by females of H. versicolor but not by females of H. chrysoscelis. Third, there is greater potential for sexual selection within populations and for discrimination against calls produced by males in other geographically remote populations in H. chrysoscelis than in H. versicolor.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Animals
  • Anura / genetics
  • Anura / physiology*
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Female
  • Male
  • Missouri
  • Polyploidy*
  • Sexual Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Sound Spectrography
  • Species Specificity
  • Tape Recording
  • Temperature
  • Vocalization, Animal / physiology*