Servicio de Información Comunitario sobre Investigación y Desarrollo - CORDIS

Behavioural interactions and the use of filiform hairs

Sensory ecology has recently emerged as a new focus of the study of how organisms acquire and respond to information from and about their environment. Many sensory scientists now routinely explore the physiological basis of sensing such as vision, chemoreception or echolocation, in an ecological context. Understanding how the animals actually use the information gathered by their sensors is an essential prerequisite to successful and powerful bionic implementations. This needs to gather proper quantifiable information on the physical and ecological constraints that influence the way in which organisms optimise their performance of stimulus acquisition and processing. We tackled this issue using the anti-predatory fluid motion sensing system of crickets, through a combination of field and laboratory experiments at different levels of the biological chain.

The major results in this part of the project are:
- The characterisation and quantification of the predation pressure by spiders, the main natural predators of wood crickets. Predation pressure is most important on early stages. Juvenile crickets differ from adults on a behavioural level by hiding under the leaves.

- The development of a piston device that faithfully mimics predatory strike showed that spiders adopt two potential tactics (attacking fast or very slowly) to counteract the air movement detection system of crickets.

- The understanding of the relative importance of the airflow around the cercus and the role of interactions between receptors enabled us to understand the design of a cercal fovea in cricket. It is characterised by a high density of non-interacting short hairs located at the base of the cercus where sensitivity to air currents is the highest.

- The overall structure of the cercal canopy is tuned to detect predators in a time-frequency-intensity space both as far as possible as at close range.

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