Can behaviour impede evolution? Persistence of singing effort after morphological song loss in crickets

Jack Gregory Rayner, Will Schneider, Nathan William Bailey

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Evolutionary loss of sexual signals is widespread. Examining the consequences for behaviours associated with such signals can provide insight into factors promoting or inhibiting trait loss. We tested whether a behavioural component of a sexual trait, male calling effort, has been evolutionary reduced in silent populations of Hawaiian field crickets (Teleogryllus oceanicus). Cricket song requires energetically costly wing movements, but ‘flatwing’ males have feminized wings that preclude song and protect against a lethal, eavesdropping parasitoid. Flatwing males express wing movement patterns associated with singing but, in contrast with normal-wing males, sustained periods of wing movement cannot confer sexual selection benefits and should be subject to strong negative selection. We developed an automated technique to quantify how long males spend expressing wing movements associated with song. We compared calling effort among populations of Hawaiian crickets with differing proportions of silent males and between male morphs. Contrary to expectation, silent populations invested as much in calling effort as non-silent populations. Additionally, flatwing and normal-wing males from the same population did not differ in calling effort. The lack of evolved behavioural adjustment following morphological change in silent Hawaiian crickets illustrates how behaviour might sometimes impede, rather than facilitate, evolution.
Original languageEnglish
Article number20190931
Number of pages5
JournalBiology Letters
Issue number6
Early online date17 Jun 2020
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2020


  • Vestigial trait
  • Adaptation
  • Teleogryllus oceanicus
  • Trait loss
  • Behavioural flexibility


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