ML 161665


Interview :51 - 19:43 Play :51 - More
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Courtney Sendall  







Tiputini Biodiversity Station; Primates; Saki monkeys; Pithecia; Titi monkeys; Callicebus  

Interview 22:10 - 1:09:15 Play 22:10 - More
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Rex Cocroft  







Tiputini Biodiversity Station; Treehopper ecology; Insect communication  

Russet-backed Oropendola -- Psarocolius angustifrons 1:16:50 - 1:24:03 Play 1:16:50 - More
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Environmental Recording 1:24:35 - 2:07:20 Play 1:24:35 - More
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Rain, Rainstorm  








NPR/NGS Radio Expeditions
30 Oct 2005

  • Ecuador
  • Tiputini Biodiversity Station
  • -0.637633   -76.150389
    Recording TimeCode
  • 1:02:00 - 1:58:15
  • Stereo
    Sampling Rate
  • 48kHz
    Bit Depth
  • 16-bit
  • Sennheiser MKH 30
  • Sennheiser MKH 50
  • Sennheiser MKH 20
    Equipment Note
  • Decoded MS Stereo to 0:22:10; Split Track to 1:24:03; Decoded MS Stereo to end

Ecuador DAT Log 9

DPAs: twin DPA 4060 omnis head=spaced
MS: undecoded mid-side with MKH50 hypercardioid mid, MKH30 fig8 side
20s: split track or spaced stereo with twin MKH20 omnis

CS = Courtney Sendall
RC = Rex Cocroft
AC = Alex Chadwick
FW = Flawn Williams

DAT 9: Sunday Oct 30 after breakfast,
looking in vain for saki monkeys with researcher Courtney Sendall, MS, no sep, no HP filter.
00032 Courtney describes telemetry equipment for locating monkeys
00200 beep of telemetry gear in mid mike
00240 AC describes telemetry gear, gets CS to ID herself
00340 into the forest behind new housing complex. Monkeys moving branches in trees overhead. Distant generator hum.
00500 farther into forest, walking, some handling noise.
00540 distant titi monkey in forest ambi . Courtney IDs. Then more sound. Bird? Monkey?
00750 decide to change trails.Walking sounds. Less handling noise. Unzip pack. Telemetry sounds. Radio squelch sound.
00930 new position, distant bird sound, then VERY distant titi monkey. Courtney IDs.
01020 Close bird. Other birds.
01110 ***** very distant titi monkeys in quiet forest ambi.
01200 AC: how far away are those titi monkeys?
CS: back at camp, 200-300 meters away.
AC: will they keep calling like that? No way to know?
CS: yep, it's a territorial call, they'll call, another group will respond
AC: maybe we should walk back and record those.
01300 ***** more distant titi monkey calls
01400 new ambi, close interesting bird, hammering sounds from building construction
01450 AC standup: ***** It's about 8:30 in the morning. We're on our second hike of the day. The first was to record howler monkeys¿they stopped calling as soon as we reached them. It's now a kind of search for two kinds of monkeys: titi monkeys or saki monkeys. Once again, when we get there they've stopped calling. We're not really very far from camp, I can hear them hammering. They're working on another building. It's so hot out here. It's 8:30 in the morning¿this is our second hike of the day¿I'm completely drenched in sweat. (pause) That's just the wind moving the trees up above. They're very tall. (hammering) And one of the men in camp¿they're building new cabins. You can hear they're not very far away but you can't see them from here, the forest is too dense.
01645 hammering, followed by quiet ambi
01740 ***** nice light bird ambi with very distant titi monkeys
01840 moving around a bit, persistent fly
01925 *****CS: with any luck our group would have responded to that territorial call. They might be a little nervous just 'cause we're here. (followed by ***** good ambi with single bird, wind in trees to 02210.)

02215 Afternoon: split track 20s, walk with Rex to treefall site
02300 around plant in yard, AC setting to take picture, Rex takes pic with his Nikon.
(conversation not transcribed.)
02658 arrival at treefall. Voices hot and distorted, then adjust levels.
02830 levels fine now, conversation in hushed tones offmike at treefall.
03030 AC standup (whispering): So we're trying to take some photographs of these treehoppers. And they're at such a delicate point in their lives that they may leave this stem at any moment if it's disturbed. (rustles around, unzips pack cover.) Yesterday I was helpfully bending a stem with a particular prized treehopper, down so that Rex would have an easier time reaching it. And all I did was touch the stem, and the leafhopper flew away.
03220 RC and AC confer, take pictures. (conversation not transcribed.)
03350 ***** good shutter clicks from AC's camera, close perspective in quiet ambi
03410 conversation, long stretch of ambi, more shutter clicks, more conversation
03857 restart at same location, Rex is trying to do some sound recordings at the treefall.
(conversation not transcribed.)
04020 AC standup (whispering): Rex has just put a hairclip that's attached to a phonograph cartridge¿and there's a wire running out the back of the cartridge to his recorder¿and he's carefully placed it on this stem¿and now he's listening.
RC: I hear lots of ants running around. And now I'm hearing some very sharp exchanges of social signals
AC: Those are treehoppers?
RC: yes.
FW: You're not recording at this point, you're just listening.
RC: Ah! Meant to be, thank you. File 010. I'm going to record some more¿Now there's a lot MORE signaling, they're talking about Alex who just bumped into their plant. It actually sounds a bit like they're laughing at you. (Pause) I'm going to reposition the cartridge, but just listen for a moment.
AC: They ARE laughing at me! (ambi)
04225 AC: I would it sounds like a kind of bell version of chickens clucking¿dull bell¿.bum bum bum bum¿but here it is.
RC: Let me just reposition here, try to get a better quality recording.
FW: File 010, zero to 2:21.
04315 RC: They're at a stage where they've been growing up for the past month on this plant. Their mother laid eggs here¿the eggs hatched out¿they've spent probably about four weeks growing to adulthood and they're adults¿and they'll all leave to reproduce on their own. And that's why this is a rather delicate stage in their life cycle because that decision to disperse is gonna come any time now. And one of the functions of this communication would be a kind of group decision-making process in which one individual says, well, I think things are not looking so good right here. Alex Chadwick has come over and has taken pictures of us. And somebody else says yes, I see the same thing. And if all of them agree¿then that may induce them to disperse sooner. But the signaling was clearly increasing when they were disturbed. (AC steps on last phrase.)
AC: So you're repositioning the phono cartridge hair clip assembly¿
RC: so called.
04450 RC: This particular setup is prone to issues of humidity and it is extremely humid here and we're all dripping with perspiration so¿take a few tries to get just a really clean quality recording. I have much fancier rigs to record these signals and quantify them. But the standby for this kind of work, the single most sensitive transducer you can take to the field, is actually these old monaural phono cartridges, that they made back when the amplifiers were not quite as good so they had a huge output. And there are some of these social signals that I've tried using a more standard method like an accelerometer and really not been able to pick up the signals¿then used this method later and suddenly heard a whole range of signaling going on.
04550 AC: Now, as I look at this Rex you're attaching that to the woodier part of the stem rather than the green part. Because if you touch the green part they'll leave?
RC: They might take that personally if I got even closer. (Pause) I think we may just have some humidity issues.
04635 ambi wind in trees
04740 AC: This is roll 0-1-1. More ambi.
04845 AC: There's two individuals!
RC: There's also some fainter signals from this other group on an adjacent stem.
04905 AC: You can hear an exchange going on there!
RC: Yes, there's some signals further in the background and some up close. And I'm much closer to one group than to the other.
04945 RC (almost a whisper): Just as I spoke there was a male flew in, gave what sounded like a mating song, and then flew off again. But I was talking at the same time.
Ambi, Rex tech question about 660 to Flawn Williams
05155 ***** good ambi with cicada startup and finish
05250 RC: What I've just heard is a small piece of dead leaf that's fallen onto one of these side leaves, making a tremendous crash, and then there was a surge in the amount of signaling immediately afterwards.
One way to illustrate what an incredible racket we make as we move through the world¿Alex if you want to try touching one of these leaves as lightly as you possibly can¿.
05325 AC: OK I'm reaching out with my little finger to this leaf over here, on the back side of it, and I'll just¿one¿two¿three¿
RC: It sounded briefly like someone was moving furniture upstairs, and then there was another burst of signals in which they were talking about what just happened. (FW: about 6:19 on file 011.)
05410 RC: You know, there are a lot of good reasons to keep an eye on plant-feeding insects, so one of them is that a lot of them like this are gorgeously colored when you get up to their scale. But they're also, in these forests, by far the dominant herbivores. And in some places in the tropics even one species of plant-feeding insect, leaf-cutter ants, can be THE dominant herbivore. So they're very important in terms of the forest ecology, and they're also incredibly diverse. So one estimate has it that for every ten species of animals, four of them are small, specialized plant-feeding insects. And¿so you might ask, well, why would a grown person spend your time listening to insects talking to each other? But again, these signals seem to be very important in allowing them to solve some of the challenges of living on a plant. So they can allow them to help avoid predation, to find food or to find each other.
05532 RC: And something that's really striking also about this little experience, is that when you were photographing this group, all we could hear was this normal forest background of insects, crickets, a few cicadas and the occasional bird¿
AC (stepping on Rex): Everything around us in the air, in the forest¿
RC: (stepping on Alex): And it seemed completely silent and peaceful. And now that we're plugged into this plant, not a single individual is moving at all in any of these groups¿and yet there's a tremendous amount of communication going on.
05640 AC: Describe these, will you? We saw these treehoppers yesterday, but could you just describe them? Physically how they look.
RC: Each treehopper looks like half a circle from the side. So if we're looking at the plant, there's a perfect half of a circle and the whole thing is maybe just under the length of a sunflower seed. On the front, their heads are orange. Or either black. And then right behind their head is a shell, like a turtle shell, that covers most of their body, that's striped black and white...sort of a cross between a zebra and a Poland (?) china pig. But the overall effect, of not just one individual but a whole group, is really strikingly beautiful.
05738 RC: The other thing that's going on here, of course, is that there are ants running up and down this plant and running over these individuals, and in fact if you look at the base of this group, you can see, a, what looks like little sawdust...almost like sand castles made out of sawdust surrounding the stem, that are shelters built by the ants. And these groups are just emerging out of those shelters, and probably they spent most of their nymphal development inside those shelters where the ants harvested their honeydew and protected them, both by potentially attacking predators that might come by, but also by completely concealing them from view.
05845 AC: How many species of treehoppers do you think are in this forest?
RC: There actually has been some work on that question. Terry Erwin (sp?) and a graduate student of his, Sarah Weigel (sp?) at the Cal Academy, who've been studying the diversity of insects in the canopy, I don't know what their last count is. I'm going to estimate that there are probably on the order of four hundred species right here in this area. And as a comparison, in the Washington DC area there are about just over 60 or so.
05940 RC: And one reason of course why there are so many is that these insects have a very intimate relationship with their host plant. They're beautifully adapted to their hosts, in their feeding behavior, in their coloration, in their way of living, in their social behavior, and also in their communication. And as many of these insects are very specialized on one species of host or a few species of hosts, and become adapted to living on those hosts (and by adapted I mean the fit between the organism and its environment). But if they manage to colonize a new host, establish themselves there, then they're going to need to evolve a new set of adaptations to live on THAT host, and it may involve a different form of social behavior or different forms of communication as well.
10103 AC: We've come maybe five minutes away from the camp cabins where we're staying at the Biodiversity Station. We followed a path that we took yesterday through the forest. And we've come to this area where there was a treefall. And there's more light coming down. And this is a place where treehoppers thrive. And we found this stem here, that is growing up from the base of a tree, and it's maybe four feet off the ground. And there's a fresh green shoot at the top, and on it there are maybe a dozen or so treehoppers with ants all running up and down them. There's a stem off to the side and there's another...oh, at least a dozen on that stem, and there are ants tending to them, and all around is first the glade of the forest itself, just spreading out from here down to the Tiputini River.
10225 AC: And everywhere we've gone in the forest, there are scientists studying monkeys, birds, and the trees, and the forest system itself. And everyone who walks through here gets a different story about what is going on in this forest, finds another aspect of it.
10255 RC: On another note, I don't know if you feel, After having listened to these, the way I do, which is that now...simply looking at them really isn't enough. I actually feel quite frustrated to NOT know what signaling is happening between them in that stem.
AC (stepping on Rex): Because it doesn't look like ANYthing is going on with them!
RC: Absolutely nothing.
AC: But everything is going on with them!
RC: Just to see, I mean, we're assuming this, we've been listening to them, we've had the tape turned off for you but I'll just turn it back on and see what we get.
10325 ambi, then AC: And there they are.
RC: Signalling, and...presumably they've been signaling the whole time we've been here talking.
10355 AC: So they don't just signal if a wasp shows upto try to eat one of them, or if they're ready to mate. There's SOMEthing that they're communicating about...all the time? Even though I'm not bumping into their plant right now?
RC: One of the really neat and fun things about studying these particular kind of social insects is that in many cases we really just go first and listen to them and have little or no idea of what in fact they might be communicating about. And to work that out, to actually break the code or understand their language takes some very systematic observation of what is it that happens at the time that they are signaling, is there some association between their likelihood of signaling and some event in the environment. And then need to have ways of being able to play those signals back without the insects producing them but just to produce them yourself and see how they respond to those signals. And that way figure out what their function is. Now in this case, I would guess that if we left this recording setup here on the plant and went away, but were able to listen to it from fifty feet away an hour from now, that they would probably be...quiet. So yes, you're not bumping into the plant at the moment, but there are a number of large creatures standing here very close to them. They also are very visual, and so they can see us, we're moving, we're talking we're nodding our heads, they're able to pick up our voices, which induce vibrations in the plant, so it's hard to know what their baseline level of signaling would be if we weren't here. But one thing I was gonna point out is that just a little while ago there was a male of one of these same treehoppers, possibly a little bit older individual, maybe from another group in the forest, that flew in and produced, produced a mating call...flew off, circled around, landed, produced another call, flew off again...and it illustrates the contrast between the mating signals of these insects, which are subject to very different kinds of evolutionary forces than their social signals. The mating signals tend to be complex; the social signals themselves tend to be very short, rather simple in structure and they get a lot of their meaning from the context and the way individuals signal in relation to each other. Whereas the mating signals, those are used of course to influence female mate choice. And if we look between species, those signals that function in the mate choice area are very different between very closely related species. So they evolve quite quickly. Whereas the social signals are much more conservative, that is, through repeated speciation events, as the mating signals are changing, the social signals among very closely related species are often very similar if not identical.
10725 AC: But it would be much more important to have - for them¿to have very distinct mating signals so that you didn't make any mistakes in that department.
RC: Well, yeah. That's a really good point. It could be that they might be...there might be selection to avoid mating mistakes if they're likely to encounter another closely related species. And if they do sometimes mate and they pay a cost, say, infertile offspring, then there could actually be selection in favor of their evolving a different signal from another species. Or it may simply be that, as a result of interactions between males and females within this species or population that it goes its own trajectory that may evolve in response to female choice and not necessarily in response to the presence of other species. But you do raise a very good point, is that these social signals are typically used only in the presence of other members, not only of their same species, but often of their same family. So often these groups are gonna be ones that have grown up from one or more clutches of eggs, from maybe one female or a few females. So, many of them will be very highly related to each other and be full siblings.
10855 RC: well that was track 12, there's 5 and a half minutes...and we started that when I was trying to make the point to Alex that, we were discussing how there seemed to be nothing going on. And just to prove the point I turned on the recorder to listen, and of course a lot was going on.
AC: Alright. (ambi) Alright I'd like to try to take a picture of that treehopper right there at the base of that leaf.
(offmike comments, FW b/anc files files 010, 011, 012.)
11100 ambiance for preceding interview, at first with distant chainsaw, then quiet
11620 b/anc ambi with and without chainsaw and wind

11655 *****Back at camp: single close adult Oropendola bird calling and wing beats, and baby bleats, and a bit of snoring from Alex's afternoon nap in background
12404 ***** Monday Oct 31 early morning: MS rainstorm from porch. Lots of roof sound at first, then move the mikes closer to get more ground splash. Better toward end and on DAT 10.
15115 quieter rain, more drips and splash
20320 even gentler rain, close to ground
20719 end tape 9

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