Sound is abundant in the environment, often creating ‘‘noise’’ that interferes with animal communication. Animals cope with acoustic interference in a variety of ways, including raising their signal volume (the Lombard effect), changing the pattern, frequency or duration of signals, or changing the time of day when signaling. Although many arthropods use substrate-borne vibration (seismic) signals, the effect of interference from (airborne) acoustic noise on their communication is not well studied. We tested the effects of 3 different types of airborne acoustic sounds on substrate-borne seismic communication and mating success of the ground-dwelling wolf spider, Schizocosa ocreata. We used band-limited white noise (0–4 kHz), predatory bird calls (northern cardinal Cardinalis cardinalis), and a cicada chorus (mixed Magicicada spp.) as interference stimuli. Spider behavior and mating success were differentially affected by each type of environmental acoustic sound. Males took longer to initiate courtship with bird calls, although white noise and cicada calls did not affect male signaling. Females oriented toward males more often with white noise but showed no change in their orientation behavior with bird or cicada calls. Finally, female receptivity and mating success were reduced with white noise and bird calls, whereas cicada calls had no effect. Our data suggest that wolf spiders using seismic vibration in communication respond differently to various types of airborne sounds, transmitted as vibrations, in their environment. This work is among the first to highlight how airborne sounds create seismic interference differentially affecting the behaviors of arthropods living in the leaf litter. Key words: behavioral plasticity, bioacoustics, bird song, cicada, communication, environment, interference, Schizocosa ocreata, sound, vibration, wolf spider. [Behav Ecol]
Gordon SD, Uetz GW. 2012. Environmental interference: impact of acoustic noise on seismic communication and mating success. Behavioral Ecology. 23:700-714.