Eavesdropping Micropredators as Dynamic Limiters of Sexual Signal Elaboration and Intrasexual Competition

Brian C. Leavell, Lynne E. Beaty, Gordon G. McNickle, Ximena E. Bernal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


To thoroughly understand the drivers of dynamic signal elaboration requires assessing the direct and indirect effects of naturally interacting factors. Here, we use structural equation modeling to test multivariate data from in situ observations of sexual signal production against a model of causal processes hypothesized to drive signal elaboration. We assess direct and indirect effects, and relative impacts, of male-male competition and attacks by eavesdropping frog-biting midges (Diptera: Corethrellidae) on call elaboration of male túngara frogs (Engystomops pustulosus). We find that the intensity of attacks by these micropredator flies drives the extent to which frogs elaborate their calls, likely due to a temporal trade-off between signaling and antimicropredator defense. Micropredator attacks appear to dynamically limit a male’s call rate and complexity and consequently dampen the effects of intrasexual competition. In accounting for naturally interacting drivers of signal elaboration, this study presents a counterpoint to the mechanisms traditionally thought to drive sexual selection in this system. Moreover, the results shed light on the relatively unexamined and potentially influential role of eavesdropping micropredators in the evolution of sexual communication systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)653-665
Number of pages13
JournalAmerican Naturalist
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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