Visual and multisensory communication in the túngara frog : mechanisms of perception

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2020-05-06

Authors

Leslie, Caitlin Elizabeth

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Abstract

Animals often communicate using multiple sensory channels, but these multimodal signals are only successful if they can be perceived by the receiver. Understanding how a receiver’s sensory system processes signals is crucial to understanding how a species communicates. I study the visual system of female túngara frogs, who use a combination of auditory and visual signals sent by males to make mate choice decisions, in order to increase our understanding of the complex communication system in this species. The studies presented here focus on two factors that influence how a female sees and processes visual stimuli: hormonal state and how those visual stimuli interact with concurrent auditory stimuli. Chapter 1 explores the retinal sensitivity of the female túngara frog and how that sensitivity is affected by the frogs’ reproductive state. Chapter 2 takes a deeper look at the hormonal modulation investigated in Chapter 1 by studying the role of estrogen in túngara frog retinal sensitivity. Chapter 3 investigates how the brain of the túngara frog integrates the auditory and visual components of the male’s mating call to influence female response. These studies demonstrate that hormones directly modulate the sensitivity of the female túngara frog’s retina and emphasize the need to incorporate sex and reproductive state in studies of animal sensory systems, particularly in the context of reproductive communication. They also highlight the importance of the functional abilities of an animal’s sensory system in driving their responses to sensory stimuli in communication.

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