Jen Hamel co-authors peer-reviewed article on animal communication in high impact biology journal

The article shares findings from empirical research on insect communication that was conducted at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute at Barro Colorado Island in Panama. The work was done by collaborators from Dartmouth College, Muséum national d'Histoire naturelle, Xuzhou Medical University, Cornell University, and Elon University, and the article appears in the journal Integrative and Comparative Biology.

Jen Hamel, associate professor in the Department of Biology, has co-authored an article in the current issue of the journal Integrative and Comparative Biology that examines the relationship between two types of communication across eight species of closely related insects (katydids) in the neotropics.

Jen Hamel, associate professor of biology, Japheth E. Rawls Professor and associate director of undergraduate research

The article, “Levels of Airborne Sound And Substrate-borne Vibration Calling Are Negatively Related Across Neotropical False-leaf Katydids,” was co-authored by Hamel, Ciara Kernan (first author), Tony Robillard, Sharon Martinson, Jiajia Dong, Laurel Symes, and Hannah ter Hofstede. The research was conducted at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute at Barro Colorado Island in Panama.

This study reported the results of a multi-year study that examined how two types of communication — airborne sound and substrate-borne vibration — are used by different but closely related insect species called false-leaf katydids. Both types of signals are used by this subgroup of neotropical katydids to advertise to or attract prospective mates. Why many animal species use more than one modality to communicate is a topic of interest in behavioral and evolutionary ecology.

Here, the authors examined the relative use of airborne sound and substrate-borne vibration by eight different species of katydids from a tropical forest in Panama. They hypothesized that there might be an inverse relationship between signal modalities across species, meaning that if a given species uses sound more, it should use vibration less. They also tested whether any pattern of signaling behavior might be driven by evolutionary relatedness; in other words, if two species that are each others’ closest relatives would both signal most often using the same modality.

The authors found that, across species, there is indeed an inverse relationship between signaling in each modality: katydid species that produce many airborne calls tend to produce few substrate-borne vibrations, and vice-versa. They also found that this pattern was not explained by evolutionary relatedness. They hypothesize that ecological factors such as population density likely outweigh evolutionary history in predicting relative use of each signal type.

Understanding how insect communication is shaped by ecology and evolution is a focus of research in Hamel’s research group.

Integrative and Comparative Biology is a peer-reviewed, international journal published by Oxford Academic, and its primary focus is to integrate the varying disciplines of organismal biology. It publishes symposia and proceedings from the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology, as well as synthesis, perspectives and empirical articles selected by the editorial board.