Active space of grasshopper mouse vocalizations (Onychomys) in relation to woody plant encroachment

Dana M. Green, Nathaniel Mull, Tucker Scolman, Grace Griffiths, Bret Pasch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The efficacy of animal acoustic communication depends on signal transmission through an oft-cluttered environment. Anthropogenic-induced changes in vegetation may affect sound propagation and thus habitat quality, but few studies have explored this hypothesis. In the southwestern United States, fire suppression and cattle grazing have facilitated displacement of grasslands by pinyon-juniper woodlands. Northern grasshopper mice (Onychomys leucogaster) inhabit regions impacted by juniper encroachment and produce long-distance vocalizations to advertise their presence to conspecifics. In this study, we coupled acoustic recordings and electrophysiological measurements of hearing sensitivity from wild mice in the laboratory with sound transmission experiments of synthesized calls in the field to estimate the active space (maximum distance that stimuli are detected) of grasshopper mouse vocalizations. We found that mice can detect loud (85 dB SPL at 1 m) 11.6 kHz vocalizations at 28 dB SPL. Sound transmission experiments revealed that signal active space is approximately 50 m. However, we found no effect of woody plant encroachment on call propagation because juniper and woody plant density were inversely associated and both present barriers to a 9 cm mouse advertising at ground level. Our data indicate that woody plant encroachment does not directly impact the efficacy of grasshopper mouse communication, but vegetation shifts may negatively impact mice via alternative mechanisms. Identifying the maximum distance that vocalizations function provides an important metric to understand the ecological context of species-specific signalling and potential responses to environmental change.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1211-1229
Number of pages19
JournalBehaviour
Volume95
DOIs
StatePublished - 2020

Keywords

  • Active space
  • Anthropogenic
  • Onychomys
  • Vocalization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience

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