In behavioral ecology, ethology and other fields in which animal behavior is studied extensively, phonotaxis is a worthwhile tool for measuring the preference of animals, usually insects such as crickets, for an auditory stimulus, such as a mating call (e.g., a cricket chirp). In short, phonotaxis is motor behavior elicited by a sound. Positive phonotaxis occurs when the animal in question moves towards a presented stimulus, while negative phonotaxis occurs when the animal moves away from the stimulus.

In one such cricket experiment (Moiseff, Pollack and Hoy, 1978), female Teleogryllus oceanicus crickets were tethered and made to fly by being placed in a wind tunnel. Then, two different male calls (or simulated calls) were played on speakers equidistant from the cricket on the left or right. Based on the directionality of the female's subsequent flight, experimenters were able to judge which calls were preferred by females (based on the assumption that females are more likely to fly towards more pleasing or attractive calls... it does, after all, help to go towards a mate).

Phonotaxis has been used in these studies of preference additionally to probe the neural auditory system in crickets. By progressively raising the volume of preferred calls, a tuning curve can be obtained, detailing the sensitivity of the cricket's "ear" to particular frequencies, such as those characterizing a male cricket call or the ultrasonic emissions of predatory bats.

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