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In various acoustic insects and frogs, females preferentially orient towards the leading of two or more males' advertisement signals that occur closely in time. Such preferences in receivers have apparently selected for timing mechanisms whereby male signallers actively refrain from calling immediately following the onset of a neighbour's call and thereby increase their production of leading calls. However, indiscriminate application of this inhibitory mechanism to all neighbours might severely reduce a male's calling rate, particularly in high density. Consequently, mechanisms of selective attention to only a subset of signalling neighbours are expected.

Female Túngara frogs (Physalaemus pustulosus) exhibit strong preferences for leading male calls, and males refrain from calling immediately following a neighbour. Four-loudspeaker playback experiments demonstrated that males do selectively apply this inhibitory mechanism to only a subset of close signalling neighbours. Selective attention is regulated by a combination of sliding threshold and fixed number rules: (i) Attend to the loudest (nearest) conspecific neighbour and those additional ones whose calls are within 6–8 dB of the loudest one; (ii) attend to only two neighbours in total when the calls are weak or the second one is much farther than the first; (iii) attend to three neighbours when the calls are loud or all neighbours are approximately equidistant. The means by which such plasticity may be achieved and its potential adaptiveness are discussed.