Female mate preferences are a major cause of diversity and elaboration in male sexual traits. Here we characterize the shape of female preference functions for pulse length and carrier frequency of the courtship song of Drosophila montana by fitting both parametric and nonparametric functions to the incidence of female receptive gestures to synthetic song. Preference functions for both traits are strongly directional. That for pulse length is linear and favors short pulses, whereas that for carrier frequency is stabilizing in shape, but would exert directional preferences favoring males with high carrier frequency. The preference for carrier frequency has probably evolved under sexual selection, but reasons for the preference for short pulses are less apparent. We also examine the effect of ambient temperature on the carrier frequency of male song and on the preference function for carrier frequency. For many similar acoustic communication systems, temperature coupling, a compensatory effect of temperature on preference functions, is thought to maintain coordination between preferences and signals. However, although the carrier frequency of D. montana song is highly dependent on environmental temperature, there is no temperature coupling of the female preference function. We suggest that temperature coupling may often arise due to a common effect of temperature on song and preference, rather than be an advantageous characteristic whose function is to maintain coordination in temperature-affected communication systems.
Corresponding Editor: H. L. Gibbs