The carrier frequency of the call of the Australian bushcricket Sciarasaga quadrata is unusually low for tettigoniids at 5 kHz. The sound transmission measured in the habitat of the insect reflects the advantages of producing low- rather than high-frequency signals; attenuation is explained almost entirely by the spherical spreading of sound. The natural vibration frequency of the wings is controlled by size and stiffness. The small tegmina are unusually fleshy, with an order-of-magnitude higher water content than in comparable sagine species. Reduced stiffness allows the insect to call at low carrier frequencies, albeit at lower intensity levels (60 dB SPL at 1 m), than bushcrickets of comparable size (80-90 dB SPL). The responses of the tympanic nerve and a first-order interneurone (omega neurone) in the afferent auditory pathway showed that the hearing system is most sensitive to frequencies of 15-20 kHz, an effective mismatch to the conspecific call resulting in a reduced sensitivity of approximately 20 dB at the carrier frequency of the call. S. quadrata can occlude its spiracular opening, which increases the sensitivity of the ear to lower frequencies. Under such conditions, the best frequency of the ear matched that of the carrier frequency of the call. We measured the activity of auditory neurones in the field, noting the ability of the open and partially closed ear to filter out potentially masking calls of congenerics. At the same time, the directionality of the system was only slightly reduced in the closed relative to the open spiracle status. We discuss the evolutionary advantages of an insect both calling with a low carrier frequency and having the ability to close down the tracheal system to avoid the effects of masking. In addition, we consider the advantages of such a signalling system in avoiding the most significant predator of the male, the ormine fly Homotrixa alleni. <P>

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