Vestigial singing behaviour persists after the evolutionary loss of song in crickets

Will Schneider, Christian Rutz, Berthold Hedwig, Nathan W. Bailey

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21 Citations (Scopus)
6 Downloads (Pure)


The evolutionary loss of sexual traits is widely predicted. Because sexual signals can arise from the coupling of specialized motor activity with morphological structures, disruption to a single component could lead to overall loss of function. Opportunities to observe this process and characterize any remaining signal components are rare, but could provide insight into the mechanisms, indirect costs and evolutionary consequences of signal loss. We investigated the recent evolutionary loss of a long-range acoustic sexual signal in the Hawaiian field cricket Teleogryllus oceanicus. Flatwing males carry mutations that remove sound-producing wing structures, eliminating all acoustic signalling and affording protection against an acoustically-orientating parasitoid fly. We show that flatwing males produce wing movement patterns indistinguishable from those that generate sonorous calling song in normal-wing males. Evolutionary song loss caused by the disappearance of structural components of the sound-producing apparatus has left behind the energetically costly motor behaviour underlying normal singing. These results provide a rare example of a vestigial behaviour and raise the possibility that such traits could be co-opted for novel functions.
Original languageEnglish
Article number20170654
Number of pages4
JournalBiology Letters
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 14 Feb 2018


  • Central pattern generator
  • Orthoptera
  • Rapid evolution
  • Sexual signal
  • Trait loss
  • Vestigial behaviour


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