Royal Society Publishing

The effect of past condition on a multicomponent sexual signal

Hannes Scheuber, Alain Jacot, Martin W. G. Brinkhof


Sexual-selection theory predicts that multiple signals may reveal male condition at different stages of life, thus allowing females to make a more reliable assessment of male quality. While the effect of current condition on signal design is well established, few studies have experimentally investigated the effects of past condition. We therefore manipulated the nutritional condition of male nymph field crickets Gryllus campestris and assessed the enduring effects on multiple components of the adult calling song. Food-restricted males had longer nymphal development times and smaller adult body sizes than nymphs with ad libitum food access. Nymphal feeding conditions specifically affected the allometric relationship between body size and harp size, as food-restricted males developed comparatively small harps, leading to a calling song of higher carrier frequency than that produced by similar-sized control males. Other calling-song components, notably chirp rate and chirp intensity, were not affected by the nymphal food treatment, exposing carrier frequency as the key component indicating past condition. In a previous study we established chirp rate as the sole indicator of current condition. The combined results represent experimental evidence of a multicomponent sexual signal that provides distinct information on male condition during different stages of life.


  • The first two authors contributed in equal part to this work.