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Energy and Predation Costs of Firefly Courtship Signals

William A. Woods Jr., Holly Hendrickson, Jennifer Mason and Sara M. Lewis
The American Naturalist
Vol. 170, No. 5 (November 2007), pp. 702-708
DOI: 10.1086/521964
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/521964
Page Count: 7
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Energy and Predation Costs of Firefly Courtship Signals
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Abstract

Abstract: Animal courtship signals include many highly conspicuous traits and behaviors, and it is generally assumed that such signals must balance the benefits of attracting mates against some fitness costs. However, few studies have assessed the multiple costs potentially incurred by any one courtship signal, so we have limited understanding of the relative importance of different costs. This study provides the first comprehensive assessment of signal costs for Photinus fireflies (Coleoptera: Lampyridae), using controlled experiments to measure both the energy and predation costs associated with their bioluminescent courtship signals. We measured energy required to generate bioluminescent flashes, using differential open‐flow respirometry, and found that flash signaling results in only a nominal increase in energy expenditure above resting levels. These results suggest that the energy required to generate bioluminescent flashes represents a minor component of the total cost of firefly courtship. However, controlled field experiments revealed that visually oriented predators imposed major costs on firefly courtship signals, with higher signaling rates significantly increasing the likelihood of predation. Together with previous results demonstrating that female fireflies prefer more conspicuous courtship signals, these results support the importance of multiple‐receiver communication networks in driving signal evolution.

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