Book Review - Insect Sounds and Communication: Physiology, Behaviour, Ecology and Evolution

Sakis Drosopoulos and Michael F. Claridge, eds.CRC Press,
Boca Raton, FL, 2005, 532 pp., $145 (hardcover), ISBN 0-8493-2060-7

 

In Insect Sounds and Communication, Sakis Drosopoulos and Michael F. Claridge have put together a volume that summarizes the current state of the discipline in insect bioacoustics. This is a large and active field that has produced several monographs and edited volumes. Some have been more general, such as Arthropod Bioacoustics (Ewing 1989), whereas others, like The Tettigoniidae (Bailey and Rentz 1990) or Cricket Behavior and Neurobiology (Huber et al. 1989) have concentrated on particular taxa. What sets this book apart from its predecessors is the balanced taxonomic coverage. In the past, insect bioacoustics has been dominated by crickets, katydids, grasshoppers, and cicadas. These are some of the most obviously acoustic groups, with many species communicating via airborne sound and at frequencies audible to the human ear, and they have rightfully received much attention from biologists. Over the past couple of decades, there has been increasing interest in acoustic communication in a wider diversity of taxonomic groups, and Insect Sounds and Communication reflects this trend. This broadening of interests has been driven by a proliferation of off-the-shelf digital signal analysis software and the development of widely available and accessible tools for recording substrate-borne acoustic signals. It is now well known that substrate-borne acoustic signals are even more widespread among insects than airborne sounds, and substrate-borne vibration signals are well represented in this book. Acoustic communication has now been documented in a wide range of insect taxa and this diversity is similarly well represented in the book, which includes chapters on Heteroptera, Auchenorrhyncha, Psylloidea, Diptera, Coleoptera, and Hymenoptera, among others. Cicadas and acoustic Orthoptera are not left out, but they do not receive a disproportionate coverage relative to other taxa.

The 32 contributed chapters in the book are organized in two sections. The first section, "General aspects of insect sounds," comprises brief reviews of theoretical and conceptual issues, such as the relationship between song evolution and speciation, the evolution of signal complexity, physical constraints on acoustic signals, heritability of song characteristics, and the taxonomic significance of acoustic characters. This section also includes several more conventional literature reviews of systems that have been more extensively studied, including hearing in katydids, vibration senses in bugs, and communication in lacewings. There is also an introductory primer (Chapter 2) on acoustics and techniques of recording and analysis of acoustic signals. Although some aspects of this techniques chapter will eventually become dated (e.g., it includes brief reviews of specific software packages), it is nevertheless a useful orientation for the newcomer to acoustic analyses, covering the basics of physical acoustics and digital signal processing in the context of recording natural sounds. The second section, "Sounds in various taxa," surveys the signal repertoires and acoustic behaviors of select insect groups. This is a very useful compendium. More familiar acoustic groups, such as cicadas, are represented here, but there are also chapters on whiteflies, lantern flies, and nondrosophilid Diptera, among others. The contributions in this section are a handy reference on the structure, diversity, and production mechanisms of acoustic signals in these taxa.

A DVD is included with the book that contains a number of useful features. The DVD is formatted as a self-contained website that includes figures, color images, media files, and supplemental information for many of the chapters. The full bibliography is also included and there are external links to the software packages reviewed in the Chapter 2 and several research websites on taxa covered in the book. This is a useful appendix to the book, particularly the sound and movie clips. Unfortunately, not all chapters are represented on the DVD, the formatting and content are not consistent among those that are included, and there is little or no indication in the text that additional information is available on the disc. But these are minor issues given how difficult it must have been to convince the numerous authors of this volume to deliver supplemental content in addition to their written contributions by publication time.

As with any edited volume, there is some variation in the scope and depth of different contributions. This does not detract from the value of the book. It can be quite useful to have a brief review of a single question (such as body size-to-frequency relationships in acoustic signals, or acoustic segregation in grasshopper communities), and a volume such as this is the ideal forum. Likewise, those contributions covering a particular system in more detail provide a valuable digest of the diversity of insect acoustic communication. Drosopoulos and Claridge have put together a volume that will benefit anyone with an interest in insect bioacoustics and that I, for one, expect to return to frequently.

 

Andrew Mason
Department of Biological Sciences,
University of Toronto-Scarborough,
Scarborough, ON, Canada M1C 1A4,
E-mail: amason@utsc.utoronto.ca

Annals of Entomological Society of America
Vol. 102, No. 4, July 2009, Page 736 – 737