Aaron J. CORCORAN, William E. CONNER, Jesse R. BARBER
D e p a r t m e n t o f B i o l o g y , W a k e F o r e s t U n i v e r s i t y , U S A
The night sky is the venue of an ancient acoustic battle between echolocating bats and their insect prey. Many tiger moths (Lepidoptera: Arctiidae) answer the attack calls of bats with a barrage of high frequency clicks. Some moth species use these clicks for acoustic aposematism and mimicry, and others for sonar jamming, however, most of the work on these defensive functions has been done on individual moth species. We here analyze the diversity of structure in tiger moth sounds from 26 species collected at three locations in North and South America. A principal components analysis of the anti-bat tiger moth sounds reveals that they vary markedly along three axes: (1) frequency, (2) duty cycle (sound production per unit time) and frequency modulation, and (3) modulation cycle (clicks produced during flexion and relaxation of the sound producing tymbal) structure. Tiger moth species appear to cluster into two distinct groups: one with low duty cycle and few clicks per modulation cycle that supports an acoustic aposematism function, and a second with high duty cycle and many clicks per modulation cycle that is consistent with a sonar jamming function. This is the first evidence from a community-level analysis to support multiple functions for tiger moth sounds. We also provide evidence supporting an evolutionary history for the development of these strategies. Furthermore, cross-correlation and spectrogram correlation measurements failed to support a “phantom echo” mechanism underlying sonar jamming, and instead point towards echo interference[Current Zoology 56 (3): 358–369,2010].