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Abstract

The role of high-frequency ripple signals (HF signals) made by males of the water strider Aquarius remigis was studied in the contexts of competition for food and general spacing behaviour during the non-mating season. HF signals were played back through the ripple-producing legs of males during dyadic agonisdc encounters, using a signal-driven wire coil to oscillate a magnet glued to a leg. These signals were in addition to normal signals. The additional signals significantly increased the number of retreats by non-magneted males, showing that the signals increased the dominance of a non-territorial male. Hence, our results increase the number of contexts in which HF signals of A. remigis function. Males, but not females, avoided a site occupied by a magneted dead male through which HF signals were played. Thus, the communication system used by A. remigis males during competition for food seemed to be ignored by females, suggesting sex-specific signals even in a non-mating context. Evolutionary models of signalling often assume that contestants have evolved the same repertoire of signals in order to resolve conflicts peacefully. This water strider system thus poses an interesting challenge for future theoretical and empirical research on communication asymmetry.