The metabolic costs of sexual signalling in the chirping katydid Plangia graminea (Serville) (Orthoptera: Tettigoniidae) are context dependent: cumulative costs add up fast
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Katydids produce acoustic signals via stridulation, which they use to attract conspecific females for mating. However, direct estimates of the metabolic costs of calling to date have produced diverse cost estimates and are limited to only a handful of insect species. Therefore, in this study, we investigated the metabolic cost of calling in an unstudied sub-Saharan katydid, Plangia graminea. Using wild-caught animals, we measured katydid metabolic rate using standard flow-through respirometry while simultaneously recording the number of calls produced. Overall, the metabolic rate during calling in P. graminea males was 60% higher than the resting metabolic rate (0.443±0.056 versus 0.279±0.028 ml CO2 h−1 g−1), although this was highly variable among individuals. Although individual call costs were relatively inexpensive (ranging from 0.02 to 5.4% increase in metabolic rate per call), the individuals with cheaper calls called more often and for longer than those with expensive calls, resulting in the former group having significantly greater cumulative costs over a standard amount of time (9.5 h). However, the metabolic costs of calling are context dependent because the amount of time spent calling greatly influenced these costs in our trials. A power law function described this relationship between cumulative cost (y) and percentage increase per call (x) (y=130.21x−1.068, R2=0.858). The choice of metric employed for estimating energy costs (i.e. how costs are expressed) also affects the outcome and any interpretation of costs of sexual signalling. For example, the absolute, relative and cumulative metabolic costs of calling yielded strongly divergent estimates, and any fitness implications depend on the organism’s energy budget and the potential trade-offs in allocation of resources that are made as a direct consequence of increased calling effort.