Animals need to flexibly respond to stimuli from their environment without compromising behavioural consistency. For example, female crickets orienting toward a conspecific male's calling song in search of a mating partner need to stay responsive to other signals that provide information about obstacles and predators. Here, we investigate how spontaneously walking crickets and crickets engaging in acoustically guided goal-directed navigation, i.e. phonotaxis, respond to mechanosensory stimuli detected by their long antennae. We monitored walking behaviour of female crickets on a trackball during lateral antennal stimulation, which was achieved by moving a wire mesh transiently into reach of one antenna. During antennal stimulation alone, females reduced their walking speed, oriented toward the object and actively explored it with antennal movements. Additionally, some crickets initially turned away from the approaching object. Females responded in a similar way when the antennal stimulus was presented during ongoing phonotaxis: forward velocity was reduced and phonotactic steering was suppressed while the females turned toward and explored the object. Further, rapid steering bouts to individual chirps, typical for female phonotaxis, no longer occurred.
Our data reveals that in this experimental situation antennal stimulation overrides phonotaxis for extended time periods. Phonotaxis in natural environments, which require the integration of multiple sensory cues, may therefore be more variable than phonotaxis measured under ideal laboratory conditions. Combining this new behavioural paradigm with neurophysiological methods will show where the sensory-motor integration of antennal and acoustic stimulation occurs and how this is achieved on a mechanistic level.
- Received April 21, 2016.
- Accepted August 30, 2016.
- © 2016. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd