Hawkmoth’s Anti-bat Ultrasound

By Anupum Pant

Bats use echolocation to navigate and to zero-in on their prey. That’s one good technique of sound to catch prey in complete darkness or low-light conditions. But their preys aren’t fools either.

Moths are one of the many kinds of insects that a bat would love to have for dinner. But moths, for millions of years, have engaged in an evolutionary battle with the bat. So, when the bats evolve with one good technique to catch them better, their preys evolve something else to evade it. It’s sort of a million year old arms race – and they’ve come up with what researchers believe, is genius. Although, let’s give it up for humans here. Our arms race has produced nuclear bombs in a few hundred years since it started.

Several species of moths, as researchers from University of Florida and Boise State University found, have an ability to produce loud ultrasonic sounds by scraping scaly parts of their genital with their abdomen. Both males and females can do it. This loud sonic disruption produced from the genitalia of certain kinds of moths is enough to block, or jam the bat’s primary navigation signal.

From what I know, no other insects which can do this have been found, but scientists are somewhat certain that several other potential bat preys must have developed this technique to disrupt the bat’s ultrasound, and must be saving their own lives.

This is how the moths do it…

via [Nature]

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