Airborne sound signals function as key mediators of mate-choice, aggression and other social interactions in a wide range of vertebrate and invertebrate animals. Calling animals produce more than sound, however. When displaying on or near a solid substrate, such as vegetation or soil, they also unavoidably excite substrate vibrations because of the physics of sound production and of acoustic propagation, and these vibrations can propagate to receivers. Despite their near ubiquity, these vibrational signal components have received very little research attention and in vertebrates it is unknown whether they are relevant to mate-choice, an important driver of evolutionary divergence. Here, we show that female red-eyed treefrogs are more than twice as likely to choose a male mating call when airborne sound is paired with its corresponding substrate vibrations. Furthermore, males of the same species are more aggressive towards and display a greater range of aggressive behaviors in response to bimodal (sound and vibration) versus unimodal (sound or vibration alone) calls. In aggressive contexts, at least, air- and substrate-borne signal components function non-redundantly. These results are a clear demonstration that vibrations produced by a calling animal can function together with airborne sound to markedly enhance the function of a signal. If this phenomenon proves widespread, this finding has the potential to substantially influence our understanding of the function and evolution of acoustic signals.

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