Royal Society Publishing

Double meaning of courtship song in a moth

Ryo Nakano, Fumio Ihara, Koji Mishiro, Masatoshi Toyama, Satoshi Toda


Males use courtship signals to inform a conspecific female of their presence and/or quality, or, alternatively, to ‘cheat’ females by imitating the cues of a prey or predator. These signals have the single function of advertising for mating. Here, we show the dual functions of the courtship song in the yellow peach moth, Conogethes punctiferalis, whose males generate a series of short pulses and a subsequent long pulse in a song bout. Repulsive short pulses mimic the echolocation calls of sympatric horseshoe bats and disrupt the approach of male rivals to a female. The attractive long pulse does not mimic bat calls and specifically induces mate acceptance in the female, who raises her wings to facilitate copulation. These results demonstrate that moths can evolve both attractive acoustic signals and repulsive ones from cues that were originally used to identify predators and non-predators, because the bat-like sounds disrupt rivals, and also support a hypothesis of signal evolution via receiver bias in moth acoustic communication that was driven by the initial evolution of hearing to perceive echolocating bat predators.

  • Received April 8, 2014.
  • Accepted June 12, 2014.
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