In the rainforests of South America, scientists have discovered a new genus and three new species of katydid with the highest ultrasonic calling songs ever recorded in the animal kingdom.
Katydids (bushcrickets) are insects known for their acoustic communication, with the male producing sound by rubbing its wings together (stridulation) to attract distant females for mating. But these newly discovered insects turn ultrasonic calling all the way up to 11 on the dial - males reach a frequency of a startling 150 kHz. For comparison, the calling frequencies used by most katydids range between 5 kHz and 30 kHz while nominal human hearing range ends at around 20 kHz.
Thus, the new genus has been named Supersonus. But that rapid wing movement comes at a price - reduced wing size means they can't fly. Speculation is that the adoption of extreme ultrasonic frequencies might play a role in avoiding predators, such as bats, and of course there is the possibility that evolution just got drunk and went on a random walk again. Bats can detect their prey’s movements using echolocation but can also eavesdrop and detect the calls of singing animals like katydids and frogs. Rainforest katydids have learned to avoid bats by reducing the time spent singing and by evolving an ear that can detect the ultrasonic echolocation calls of the bats. Although some bats can detect 150 kHz, by singing at extreme ultrasonic frequencies, the katydid calls degrade faster with distance so that a flying bat will find it harder to hear the signal.
Female Supersonus. Credit:
Dr. Fernando Montealegre-Z from the University of Lincoln said, “To call distant females, male katydids produce songs by ‘stridulation’ where one wing (the scraper) rubs against a row of ‘teeth’ on the other wing. The scraper is next to a vibrating drum that acts like a speaker. The forewings and drums are unusually reduced in size in the Supersonus species, yet they still manage to be highly ultrasonic and very loud.
“Using a combination of state-of-the-art technologies, we found that Supersonus creates a ‘closed box’ with its right wing in order to radiate sound. Human-made loud speakers also use this system to radiate sound. Large speakers radiate low frequencies, while small speakers emit high frequencies. So, these reduced wings are responsible for tuning their calling songs at such high frequencies.”
Dr. James Windmill, from the Centre of Ultrasonic Engineering, University of Strathclyde, added, “These insects can produce, and hear, loud ultrasonic calls in air. Understanding how nature’s systems do this can give us inspiration for our engineered ultrasonics.”
Citation: Sarria-S F. A., Morris G. K., Jackson J., Windmill J.F.C,&Montealegre-Z F. 2014. Shrinking wings for ultrasonic pitch production: hyperintense ultra-short-wavelength calls in a new genus of neotropical katydids (Orthoptera: Tettigoniidae). PLoS One June 5 2014 DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0098708
- PHYSICAL SCIENCES
- EARTH SCIENCES
- LIFE SCIENCES
- SOCIAL SCIENCES
Subscribe to the newsletter
Stay in touch with the scientific world!
Know Science And Want To Write?
- BPA-Free, With Regrets
- Why Do Spacecraft Like ESA's Schiaperelli Crash On Mars So Easily?
- A Dimuon Particle At 30 GeV In ALEPH ??
- President Obama, Why Humans On Mars Right Now Are Bad For Science
- New President - Pivot To Moon On Way To Mars? Lunar Spelunking & Science Surprises
- Biofuels Are A Climate Mistake
- An Astronaut Gardener On The Moon - Summits Of Sunlight And Vast Lunar Caves In Low Gravity
- "For years I've been telling a friend of mine who is diabetic to stop drinking diet soda. He starts..."
- "Instead of the original article - the comments of Chandra Kant Raju are here..."
- "Good points indeed. But I think what the ESA did this time is unusual, so unusual, I don't think..."
- "I agree with most of what you say, but I don't think it's accurate to say that there isn't a statistically..."
- "Oh, you mean things like this?Sunset photo by Tom Hall.That's just the thing I explained above..."
- Necrotizing Fasciitis: A Profound Mystery in Medical Microbiology
- Early Math Classes Biased Against Girls, Affecting Career Choices, Study Finds
- Sucralose Study Ripe for Scare-Mongering
- Is Modern Feminism Incompatible with Science?
- When All Else Fails, Bribing Kids to Eat Better
- Kathleen Gyllenhaal: 'IN UTERO' in Hollywood Q&A