LIFE SCIENCE

Noise can affect the animal’s mate selection through cross-sensory disturbances


Recently, the Animal Behavior and Bionics Project Group of chengdu institute of biology, Chinese Academy of Sciences published a research paper entitled “Noise Affects Tree Frog’s Mate Selection Based on Visual Cues Through Cross-sensory Interference” in the international academic journal Environmental Pollution. It was found that the communication efficiency of frog audio-visual multimode signals was significantly reduced under noise interference, and noise could affect the animal’s mate selection through cross-sensory interference.

The communication process is often disturbed by noise, and how to effectively transmit and identify signals in a noisy environment is a serious challenge for humans and animals. It has been argued that multimode signals can improve communication efficiency in noisy environments. For example, when auditory channels are obscured by noise, humans and animals rely more on other sensory channels (sight, smell, etc.), a strategy known as multimodal shift. Studies have shown that ambient noise interferes with sound communication and visual background noise interferes with visual communication. The brain may impair its ability to process signals from one sensory channel when it processes signals from another. Therefore, in theory, the noise of the auditory system may interfere with the recognition of visual signals. However, there is little experimental evidence on whether and how noise affects animal mate selection through cross-sensory interference.

Noise affects mate selection in frogs through cross-sensory disturbances (graphic abstract) Picture from the paper

In this experiment, the researchers used the saw-legged original finger tree frog (Kurixalus odontotarsus) as the object to present the female frog with single-mode signals (sound or sound sac video) and audio-visual multimode signals (sound + sound sac video) through speakers and displays, to verify whether the noise would interfere with the frog’s ability to process sound, visual or visual-listen multimode signals. The results show that when no noise is played, the female frog is able to accurately select the more attractive single-mode signal (sound or visual) or audio-visual multimode signal; When the noise is played, this preference of the female frog disappears or even reverses. At the same time, the cross-sensory interference of ambient noise is affected by the degree of matching of the noise frequency with the subject’s auditory sensitivity range and the difficulty of task identification. In addition, the study found that ambient noise significantly changed the length of time female frogs spend making mate choices.

Experimental stimulation. Noise stimuli (a), visual stimuli (b). Noise stimuli include: high-frequency white noise (HFN), low-frequency white noise (LFN), and xenocosperal chorus (HC). Visual stimuli include: video when the male frog is not chirping, and video of the song sac dynamically expanding when the male frog is chirping. Image from the paper

Female frog selection preference when presenting visual stimuli. The experiment consisted of two sets of stimuli pairs: a video footage of a male frog emitting a 2-syllable advertising chirp vs. a video footage of a male frog emitting a 5-syllable advertising chirp (a); Video footage of male frogs not chirping vs. Video footage of male frogs emitting 5-syllable advertising chirps (b). The abscissa S stands for mute (blank control), HFN for high frequency white noise, LFN for low frequency white noise, and HC for xeno chorus. Image from the paper

Selection preference of female frogs when presenting sound or acoustic-visual stimuli. The experiment consisted of two sets of stimuli pairs: 2-syllable advertising tweet vs. 5 syllable advertising tweet (a); Video of male frogs emitting 2-syllable advertising chirps vs. videos of male frogs emitting 5-syllable advertising chirps (b). HFN stands for High Frequency White Noise. Image from the paper

The time it takes the female frog to make a choice when presenting a visual stimulus. The experiment consisted of two sets of stimuli pairs: a video footage of a male frog emitting a 2-syllable advertising chirp vs. a video footage of a male frog emitting a 5-syllable advertising chirp (a); Video footage of male frogs not chirping vs. Video footage of male frogs emitting 5-syllable advertising chirps (b). The abscissa S stands for mute (blank control), HFN for high frequency white noise, LFN for low frequency white noise, and HC for xeno chorus. Image from the paper

This result provides new evidence for cross-sensory interference of noise, demonstrating for the first time that ambient noise interferes with the visual signals of animals, which is likely to reduce the communication efficiency of animals in noisy environments, which in turn affects their suitability. This study elucidates how noise affects animal mate selection through cross-sensory interference, which is of great significance for revealing the function and evolution of multimodal signals in noisy environments and the multimodal hazards of noise, and provides an important basis for scientific prediction and mitigation of the impact of noise disturbance on wild animals.

Zhu Bi, special research assistant at the Chengdu Institute of Biology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, became the first author of the paper, and researcher Cui Jianguo was the corresponding author; Professors Wang Jichao and Dr. Wang Tongliang of Hainan Normal University and Chen Qinghua, researcher of the South China Institute of Environmental Sciences of the Ministry of Ecology and Environment, are co-authors. (Source: China Science Daily Yang Chen)

Related paper information:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envpol.2022.119680

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