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Network analysis reveals context-dependent structural complexity of social calls in serrate-legged small treefrogs

Update time: 01/22/2022
Vocal communication plays an important role in survival, reproduction, and animal social association. Birds and mammals produce complex vocal sequence to convey context-dependent information. Vocalizations are conspicuous features of the behavior of most anuran species (frogs and toads), and males usually alter their calling strategies according to ecological context to improve the attractiveness/competitiveness. However, very few studies have focused on the variation of vocal sequence in anurans. In the present study, we used both conventional method and network analysis to investigate the context-dependent vocal repertoire, vocal sequence, and call network structure in serrate-legged small treefrogs Kurixalus odontotarsus. We found that male K. odontotarsus modified their vocal sequence by switching to different call types and increasing repertoire size in the presence of a competitive rival. Specifically, compared with before and after the playback of advertisement calls, males emitted fewer advertisement calls, but more aggressive calls, encounter calls, and compound calls during the playback period. Network analysis revealed that the mean degree, mean closeness, and mean betweenness of the call networks significantly decreased during the playback period, which resulted in lower connectivity. In addition, the increased proportion of one-way motifs and average path length also indicated that the connectivity of the call network decreased in competitive context. However, the vocal sequence of K. odontotarsus did not display a clear small-world network structure, regardless of context. Our study presents a paradigm to apply network analysis to vocal sequence in anurans and has important implications for understanding the evolution and function of sequence patterns.