Substrate texture affects female cricket walking response to male calling song

10 Jul 2018

Field crickets are extensively used as a model organism to study female phonotactic walking behaviour, i.e. their attraction to the male calling song. Laboratory-based phonotaxis experiments generally rely on arena or trackball-based settings; however, no attention has been paid to the effect of substrate texture on the response. Here, we tested phonotaxis in female Gryllus bimaculatus, walking on trackballs machined from methyl-methacrylate foam with different cell sizes. Surface height variations of the trackballs, due to the cellular composition of the material, were measured with profilometry and characterized as smooth, medium or rough, with roughness amplitudes of 7.3, 16 and 180 µm. Female phonotaxis was best on a rough and medium trackball surface, a smooth surface resulted in a significant lower phonotactic response. Claws of the cricket foot were crucial for effective walking. Females insert their claws into the surface pores to allow mechanical interlocking with the substrate texture and a high degree of attachment, which cannot be established on smooth surfaces. These findings provide insight to the biomechanical basis of insect walking and may inform behavioural studies that the surface texture on which walking insects are tested is crucial for the resulting behavioural response.