Quiet but not forgotten: Insights into adaptive evolution and behavior from 20 years of (mostly) silent Hawaiian crickets

Nathan W. Bailey, Marlene Zuk, Robin M. Tinghitella

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Over 20 years ago, an adaptive, silent male morph called ‘flatwing’ was discovered in a population of Hawaiian crickets (Teleogryllus oceanicus). Silence protects males against lethal, eavesdropping parasitoid flies (Ormia ochracea). Since then, numerous independent, protective morphs have been discovered, including parallel ‘flatwing’ mutations, ‘small-wing’, ‘curly-wing’, ‘rattling-wing’, and ‘defiled-wing’, all of which disrupt structures that generate sound when males rub their wings together. Some crickets also produce a protective, attenuated signal called ‘purring’. This cricket-fly arms race is a microcosm of behavioral and evolutionary biology. Here we provide a user's guide to the system. Our research efforts have revealed an important role for behavioral flexibility (i.e., plasticity) in accommodating and accelerating genetic adaptation by enabling both sexes to cope with a changing social environment caused by adaptive signal loss. We describe a unique mode by which behavioral flexibility and novel adaptations are bound together in this system: as each one affects the fitness of the other in a way that facilitates rapid responses to selection, the two co-evolve over time. We advocate for viewing behavior's role in evolution as dynamic rather than static. Our research supports the idea that behavior can change dynamically depending on genetic architecture, demography, and other factors. In addition, the widespread reduction of singing through morphological rather than behavioral change in T. oceanicus pinpoints wing morphology as a hotspot of evolution, and we describe ongoing behavioral and genomic research characterizing this underappreciated mode of adaptation—adaptive breakage—which disrupts previously canalized form-function relationships.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationAdvances in Applied Microbiology
PublisherAcademic Press Inc.
Number of pages37
ISBN (Print)9780443294402
StatePublished - Jan 2024

Publication series

NameAdvances in the Study of Behavior
ISSN (Print)0065-3454

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024


  • Acoustic communication
  • Adaptive evolution
  • Coevolution
  • Field cricket
  • Form-function relationship
  • Phenotypic plasticity
  • Rapid evolution
  • Sexual selection
  • Social behavior


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