Conspecific Communication Functions of Vibrational Signals Produced by Immatures of Treehopper Tylopelgta gibbera (Hemiptera: Membracidae)
MetadataShow full item record
Vibrational signaling is a common form of communication among insects. Substrate-borne vibrations serve many functions, such as predator avoidance, mate recognition, and communication within a group. Treehoppers (Hemiptera: Membracidae) are small sap-feeding insects that send vibrational signals through host plants on which they feed. In the treehopper Tylopelta gibbera, adults produce these signals to attract and locate mates; nymphs also produce signals, but their functions are unknown. We tested two hypotheses concerning the function of rattle-like vibrations frequently produced by moving T. gibberanymphs: (1) a movement function, where rattle-like signals warn feeding nymphs of a nearby poor feeding site, and (2) a soliciting function, where rattle vibrations serve to request information from feeding nymphs on locations of adequate feeding sites. We made playback recordings of vibrations produced by nymph movement with and without rattles, and while nymphs were stationary and silent on host plants. Recordings were played back to a single experimental nymph placed on a host plant. Movement and signaling responses of the experimental nymph were recorded to test the movement and soliciting hypotheses, respectively. There was a marginally significant difference in movement among playback treatments, but there was no significant effect of treatment on nymphal signaling rates. There is evidence, however, to suggest that rattle-like vibrations may serve an antipredator function to mask signals produced by walking.