Kinematics of cricket phonotaxis
MetadataShow full item record
Male crickets produce a species specific song to attract females which in response move towards the sound source. This behaviour, termed phonotaxis, has been the subject of many morphological, neurophysiological and behavioural studies making it one of the most well studied examples of acoustic communication in the animal kingdom. Despite this fact, the precise leg movements during this behaviour is unknown. This is of specific interest as the cricket’s ears are located on their front legs, meaning that the perception of the sound input might change as the insect moves. This dissertation describes a methodology and an analysis that fills this knowledge gap. I developed a semi-automated tracking system for insect motion based on commercially available high-speed video cameras and freely available software. I used it to collect detailed three dimensional kinematic information from female crickets performing free walking phonotaxis towards a calling song stimulus. I marked the insect’s joints with small dots of paint and recorded the movements from underneath with a pair of cameras following the insect as it walks on the transparent floor of an arena. Tracking is done offline, utilizing a kinematic model to constrain the processing. I obtained, for the first time, the positions and angles of all joints of all legs and six additional body joints, synchronised with stance-swing transitions and the sound pattern, at a 300 Hz frame rate. I then analysed this data based on four categories: The single leg motion analysis revealed the importance of the thoraco-coxal (ThC) and body joints in the movement of the insect. Furthermore the inside middle leg’s tibio-tarsal (TiTa) joint was the centre of the rotation during turning. Certain joints appear to be the most crucial ones for the transition from straight walking to turning. The leg coordination analysis revealed the patterns followed during straight walking and turning. Furthermore, some leg combinations cannot be explained by current coordination rules. The angles relative to the active speaker revealed the deviation of the crickets as they followed a meandering course towards it. The estimation of ears’ input revealed the differences between the two sides as the insect performed phonotaxis by using a simple algorithm. In general, the results reveal both similarities and differences with other cricket studies and other insects such as cockroaches and stick insects. The work presented herein advances the current knowledge on cricket phonotactic behaviour and will be used in the further development of models of neural control of phonotaxis.