Effective communication in animals comprise emission of a signal by a signaller and a response by a receiver, such that the interaction is beneficial to either only the signaller, or both the signaller and the receiver. Although animals often communicate using a single sensory modality, use of multimodal signals is very prevalent, possibly to increase the efficacy of communication. The evolution of signalling traits in new sensory modalities, in the presence of signals in pre-existing sensory channels is intriguing, as it requires co-evolution between signals and receiver psychology. Furthermore, environmental conditions and energetic constraints of signallers, may govern the type and intensity of signals, as well as, their efficacy in reaching the sensory systems of the receivers.
In the first chapter, I studied the general ecology of a single species of a diurnal gecko in the genus Cnemaspis to understand its habitat use, activity patterns, and composition of population. I found that individuals of Cnemaspis mysoriensis are active throughout the day and found in areas with broad trees and numerous crevices. I also found that males of this species have colour morphs, which differ in their relative abundance in areas of high and low density. The population of this species has highly skewed adult to juvenile numbers in areas of high density. Finally, I found that individuals show low site fidelity and males avoid cohabiting.
In the second chapter, I determined the presence of multimodal signalling and the relative importance of signal components in chemical and visual sensory modalities for intraspecific communication in a single species of Cnemaspis. I found that male and female receivers differed in responses to signal components. Chemical stimuli were necessary and sufficient for female receivers; however, male receivers required both the chemical and visual stimuli as a multimodal signal to elicit a response.
In the third chapter, I determined whether complexity and elaboration of various components of a multimodal signal across multiple species of Cnemaspis were associated with environmental parameters. I also investigated whether components in different modalities had trade-offs in their expression and intensity, possibly due to constraints. I found that some visual and chemical traits of signallers were well-associated with the environment to either increase the conspicuousness of signallers to conspecifics (visual traits) or decrease the loss of signal in the environment (chemical traits). I also found some evidence for trade-offs between components of signals between the two sensory modalities.
Finally in the fourth chapter, by comparing receiver responses of two closely related species of Cnemaspis, one with unimodal signals and another with multimodal signals, I investigated whether the evolution of receiver responses were associated with elaboration of traits in a new signal modality. I found that movement-based responses of male receivers of the species with multimodal signalling were highest towards multimodal signal, providing some support for the evolution of receiver response with trait elaboration.
Overall, I found that in multiple diurnal gecko species, the elaboration of traits in the visual sensory channel shows some trade-off with chemical trait expression, and seems to have evolved to enhance interactions among males.