Multimodal cues improve prey localization under complex environmental conditions

F. Rhebergen, R.C. Taylor, M.J. Ryan, R.A. Page, W.H. Halfwerk

    Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


    Predators often eavesdrop on sexual displays of their prey. These displays can provide multimodal cues that aid predators, but the benefits in attending to them should depend on the environmental sensory conditions under which they forage. We assessed whether bats hunting for frogs use multimodal cues to locate their prey and whether their use varies with ambient conditions. We used a robotic set-up mimicking the sexual display of a male túngara frog (Physalaemus pustulosus) to test prey assessment by fringe-lipped bats (Trachops cirrhosus). These predatory bats primarily use sound of the frog’s call to find their prey, but the bats also use echolocation cues returning from the frog’s dynamically moving vocal sac. In the first experiment, we show that multimo-dal cues affect attack behaviour: bats made narrower flank attack angles on multimodal trials compared with unimodal trials during which they could only rely on the sound of the frog. In the second experiment, we explored the bat’s use of prey cues in an acoustically more complex environment. Túngara frogs often form mixed-species choruses with other frogs, including the hourglass frog (Dendropsophus ebraccatus). Using a multi-speaker set-up, we tested bat approaches and attacks on the robofrog under three different levels of acoustic complexity: no calling D. ebraccatus males, two calling D. ebraccatus males and five D. ebraccatus males. We found that bats are more directional in their approach to the robofrog when more D. ebraccatus males were calling. Thus, bats seemed to benefit more from multimodal cues when confronted with increased levels of acoustic complexity in their foraging environments. Our data have important consequences for our understanding of the evolution of multimodal sexual displays as they reveal how environmental conditions can alter the natural selection pressures acting on them.
    Original languageEnglish
    Article number20151403
    Number of pages8
    JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B. Biological Sciences
    Issue number1814
    Publication statusPublished - 2015


    Dive into the research topics of 'Multimodal cues improve prey localization under complex environmental conditions'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this