Multimodal signals facilitate communication with conspecifics during courtship, but they can also alert eavesdropper predators. Hence, signallers face two pressures: enticing partners to mate and avoiding detection by enemies. Undefended organisms with limited escape abilities are expected to minimize predator recognition over mate attraction by limiting or modifying their signalling. Alternatively, organisms with anti-predator mechanisms such as aposematism (i.e. unprofitability signalled by warning cues) might elaborate mating signals as a consequence of reduced predation. We hypothesize that calls diversified in association with aposematism. To test this, we assembled a large acoustic signal database for a diurnal lineage of aposematic and cryptic/non-defended taxa, the poison frogs. First, we showed that aposematic and non-aposematic species share similar extinction rates, and aposematic lineages diversify more and rarely revert to the non-aposematic phenotype. We then characterized mating calls based on morphological (spectral), behavioural/physiological (temporal) and environmental traits. Of these, only spectral and temporal features were associated with aposematism. We propose that with the evolution of anti-predator defences, reduced predation facilitated the diversification of vocal signals, which then became elaborated or showy via sexual selection.
- Received July 15, 2014.
- Accepted September 17, 2014.
- © 2014 The Author(s) Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.