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, 323 (5917), 1077-9

Harmonic Convergence in the Love Songs of the Dengue Vector Mosquito


Harmonic Convergence in the Love Songs of the Dengue Vector Mosquito

Lauren J Cator et al. Science.


The familiar buzz of flying mosquitoes is an important mating signal, with the fundamental frequency of the female's flight tone signaling her presence. In the yellow fever and dengue vector Aedes aegypti, both sexes interact acoustically by shifting their flight tones to match, resulting in a courtship duet. Matching is made not at the fundamental frequency of 400 hertz (female) or 600 hertz (male) but at a shared harmonic of 1200 hertz, which exceeds the previously known upper limit of hearing in mosquitoes. Physiological recordings from Johnston's organ (the mosquito's "ear") reveal sensitivity up to 2000 hertz, consistent with our observed courtship behavior. These findings revise widely accepted limits of acoustic behavior in mosquitoes.


Figure 1
Figure 1
(A) An oscillogram from a sound clip of a tethered male and female duetting. (B) A spectrogram depicting the harmonic stack of the same sound clip. The male was held in a fixed position and sang continuously for nearly two minutes. The female was brought within two centimeters of the male on three separate occasions. (C) An expanded view of B showing the synchronization of the flight tone at the second harmonic of the male (blue) and the third of the female (red). At t=45 sec, the two tones converge to the extent that they cannot be readily distinguished. (D) A separate recording of a tethered male (blue) flying solo and synchronizing to a loud speaker stimulus consisting of a simulated female flight tone with a missing fundamental (red). (E) A recording of a tethered male flying solo (blue) modulating his flight tone to match the playback of a simulated third harmonic of a female. (F) A female flying solo (red) matches a simulated second harmonic of a male (blue) playback tone.
Figure 2
Figure 2
(A) Acoustically-evoked field potentials recorded from Johnston's organ exhibit periodic oscillations (inset, F0-4) riding on top of a sustained deflection (SD). Shown are averages of 10 and 5 repetitions to 1200 and 400 Hz, respectively, in a male. Thoracic control recordings are in black; the stimulus envelope is at bottom. (B) Spectral analysis of the response to the 400 Hz tone in A shows substantial power at low frequencies (SD) during the stimulus (blue) compared to a pre-stimulus background period (black), as well as peaks at multiple harmonics (F1-4) of the stimulus' fundamental frequency (F0). (C) Averaged across 12 males (blue) and 15 females (red), the amplitude (mean +/- SEM) of the sustained deflection (SD, solid squares) remains higher than pre-stimulus background noise (dashed line at zero) up to 2000 Hz, whereas the amplitudes of F0 and F1 (open and solid circles, respectively), are substantially smaller.

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