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Masking of an auditory behaviour reveals how male mosquitoes use distortion to detect females

Masking of an auditory behaviour reveals how male mosquitoes use distortion to detect females

Simões, P. M. V., Ingham, R., Gibson, G. and Russell, I. J. (2018) Masking of an auditory behaviour reveals how male mosquitoes use distortion to detect females. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 285 (1871):20171862. ISSN 0962-8452 (Print), 1471-2954 (Online) (doi:

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The mating behaviour of many mosquito species is mediated essentially by sound: males follow and mate with a female mid-flight by detecting and tracking the whine of her flight-tones. The stereotypical rapid frequency modulation (RFM) male behaviour, initiated in response to the detection of the female's flight-tones, has provided a means of investigating these auditory mechanisms while males are free-flying. Mosquitoes hear with their antennae, which vibrate to near-field acoustic excitation. The antennae generate nonlinear vibrations (distortion products, DPs) at frequencies that are equal to the difference between the two simultaneously presented tones, e.g. the male and female flight-tones, which are detected by mechanoreceptors in the auditory Johnston's organ (JO) at the base of the antenna. Recent studies indicated the male mosquito's JO is tuned not to the female flight-tone, but to the frequency difference between the male and female flight-tones. To test the hypothesis that mosquitoes detect this frequency difference, Culex quinquefasciatus males were presented simultaneously with a female flight-tone and a masking tone, which should suppress the male's RFM response to sound. The free-flight behavioural and in vivo electrophysiological experiments revealed that acoustic masking suppresses the RFM response to the female's flight-tones by attenuating the DPs generated in the nonlinear vibration of the antennae. These findings provide direct evidence in support of the hypothesis that male mosquitoes detect females when both are in flight through difference tones generated in the vibrations of their antennae owing to the interaction between their own flight-tones and those of a female.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: mosquito, insect hearing, Johnston’s organ, Culex quinquefasciatus, distortion products, frequency tuning, acoustic behaviour, phonotaxis, rapid frequency modulation behaviour
Subjects: S Agriculture > S Agriculture (General)
Faculty / Department / Research Group: Faculty of Engineering & Science
Faculty of Engineering & Science > Natural Resources Institute
Faculty of Engineering & Science > Natural Resources Institute > Agriculture, Health & Environment Department
Last Modified: 07 Jun 2019 14:07
Selected for GREAT 2016: None
Selected for GREAT 2017: None
Selected for GREAT 2018: GREAT b
Selected for GREAT 2019: GREAT 1
Selected for REF2021: None

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