I am interested in the mate searching system of the treehopper Tylopelta gibbera. In this species, males will fly from plant to plant broadcasting vibrational advertisement signals. If a stationary female responds, the two will start a call-and-response duet and the male will hone in on her responses and mate with her.
But this marco-polo system does not occur in isolation. If more than one male is on the same plant as a female, both will produce disruptive signals during their rival’s advertisement signals. Since the female
mates with only the first male to arrive and males must be stationary to both signal and listen, there is strong selection for a strategy that maximizes searching efficiency and minimizes rival male success. I’m working to understand how male disruptive signals inhibit female response and what strategies males use (e.g. differential timing and duration of disruptive signals) to gain an edge in the race to mate.
In addition to plants roles as passive vibrational channels for insect-to-insect communication, I’m interested in the more active role plants play in their vibrational umwelt, by investigating plant perception of herbivore vibrations.
Please follow this link if you’d like to hear samples of some of the things I recorded while out prospecting for vibrational communication: Micah Fletcher’s Blog
I work on furthering the data acquisition, processing, and playback methods used in the lab to facilitate future research on vibrational insect communication. This includes the adaptation of motion devices and sensors for studying insect vibrations on plants and the writing of software to analyze gathered vibration data.