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Magicicada behavior

As in nearly all cicada species, male periodical cicadas produce "songs" using a pair of tymbals, or ridged membranes, found on the first abdominal segment. The abdomen of a male cicada is hollow and may act as a resonating chamber; the songs of individuals are loud, and large choruses can be virtually deafening. Females of most cicada species do not have sound-producing organs. Both sexes hear the sounds of the males as well as other sounds using membranous hearing organs called "tympana" found on the underside of the abdomen.

Over the course of an emergence, males congregate in "choruses" or singing aggregations, usually in high, sunlit branches. Females visit these aggregations and mate there, so choruses contain large numbers of both sexes.

Males of all Magicicada species (each described individually in the species section) produce alarm sounds when handled, calling songs that attract males and females to the chorus, and one or more courtship calls when approaching and attempting to mate with females. Five different male acoustic signals have been described for the -decim and -cassini cognate species. Samples of most of these sounds are included below. These species have calling and courting signals that differ in pitch (frequency) and other characteristics, but the signals have have similar structures, so they can be described together. The functions of these signals are not entirely understood, but they have been given names to indicate their suspected function. The acoustical behaviors of the -decula species have not been as well characterized.

Female Magicicada produce timed "wing flick" signals in response to male calls, and the timing of this signal in relation to the male call is species-specific for species of the same life cycle. The signal consists of a quick flip of the wings that creates a broad-frequency sound that can vary from a gentle rustle to a sharp pop. Males are able perceive both the visual and acoustic components of the wing-flick.

A chorusing male perceiving a female signal increases his number of calls relative to movement distance, increasing the odds that he will elicit further responses from any nearby female. If the male receives multiple responses, he ceases sing-fly behavior, begins CI courtship, and engages in a signaling duet with the wing flicking female, evidently for the purpose of locating her. Between calls, duetting males often walk towards the signaling female, and while approaching, begin CII calling. After contacting the female or while preparing to mount, the male begins CIII calling, which he continues until he mounts and copulates. Under some circumstances, males engaged in duets acoustically obscure the downslurs of potential competitors, reducing the likelihood of a female response and increasing the likelihood that competing males will continue chorusing, depart and search elsewhere. Although female wing-flick signaling is known for many Australian and New Zealand cicadas (e.g., Lane 1995), this is the first reported incidence of female signaling in North American cicadas. For more detail about female signals in Magicicada, see Cooley and Marshall 2001.

Male signals: (for recordings see the Magicicada species section)

Female signals:

Female wing flick signal: Females produce timed "wing flick" signals in response to male calls. The timing of this signal in relation to the male call is species-specific.

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