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V.23 No.13 | 3/27/2014
Red blood cells
All images by David Goodsell

Art Magnified

Inside Information

The science of cells paints a pretty picture

The bedrock of discovery is observation. That’s where a scientific demiurge like Dr. David Goodsell comes in. He’s spent years translating the utterly tiny into the comprehensibly visual.
View in Alibi calendar calendar
V.22 No.28 | 7/11/2013
The Asian corn borer
photo by Ryo Nakano
The Asian corn borer

Science

What Sounds Sexy to a Moth?

¡Viva la Science!

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On the importance of language
Moths avoid bats. It’s nothing personal, just an understandable desire not to get devoured. In the perpetual evolutionary arms race between the nocturnal creatures, moths seem to have developed ears for the sole purpose of hearing bats’ echolocation criesbecause if you want to avoid becoming someone’s midnight snack, getting wind of their approach is key.

Do you remember that part in Dead Poets Society where Robin Williams asks his students why language was invented? “To communicate,” suggests one. “No!” he replies, “To woo women.” Well, humans aren’t the only mammals that have a way of making everything about sex. Until recently, scientists believed that moths could hear sounds, but not produce them. Turns out, though, that most male moths make sounds when they want to engage in a little nookie. And not just any sounds, eithertheir calls are distinctly bat-like.

A sensory physiology researcher from the University of Southern Denmark, along with colleagues from the University of Tokyo, has been studying two different species of moths to find out exactly how sound is used for courtship. It’s not quite the same for everyone.

The Japanese lichen moth
photo by Ryo Nakano
The Japanese lichen moth

In the Asian corn borer, a moth much prettier than it sounds, males make a call that’s indistinguishable from a bat’s hunting cry. Females instinctively freeze at the sound, making it harder for the bats to find them. But in Asian corn borer society, immobility apparently equals consent, because when a female holds still, that’s when the magic of reproduction can happen.

On the other hand, male Japanese lichen moths also make sounds like bats gone a’hunting. But the females of that species aren’t fooledthey can tell the difference between a bat and a suitor. The sound the males make, then, has evolved into a specific mating call.

“The acoustic communication between bats and moths is a textbook example of the interaction between predator and prey,” says Annemarie Surlykke, the researcher from Denmark. “However, our studies show how such a system can evolve, so also moths use their ability to hear and produce sounds to communicate sexually and that they have developed many different ways of doing it. It is a beautiful example of evolutionary diversity.”

If you were wondering how moths can make sounds like bats without attracting their mortal enemies, the key seems to be volume. Moths essentially whisper their calls while only inches apart, whereas bats are pretty much just screaming through the night sky. Spooky! Since we humans aren’t equipped to hear any of it, you’ll just have to imagine what sweet nothings moths murmur to one another.

Source: Science Daily

More Videos

V.20 No.38 |

news

The Daily Word in Troy Davis, Edupunk and Corrales' chicken mayor

The Daily Word

World reacts angrily to the execution of Troy Davis in Georgia last night.

Ron Paul's supporters are scared of N.M.'s ex-Gov. Gary Johnson, who's in tonight's national debate.

Dog? Horse? Donkey? Chicken? Who will be Corrales' mayor?

Urban farm in Downtown Albuquerque on Second Street and Silver.

Meet TV's fact-checkers.

Images of the satellite that's falling to Earth.

Parking meter wasteland.

Universities seek students with cash money.

Uncreative writing.

Edupunk: A guide to a free online education.

Man builds lady cave to sleep in. (NSFW if your work sux.)

One Million Moms seeks to halt Schweddy Balls.

V.19 No.34 |

news

The Daily Word 08.26.10: Glenn Beck and MLK, uranium drilling, pizza burger

The Daily Word

40 new plant and animal species discovered off the coast of Indonesia. Think: giant sea spiders and carnivorous flower sponges.

Fire tornado.

Where did the stimulus money go?

Glenn Beck to host a rally where Martin Luther King Jr. delivered "I Have a Dream" on the speech's anniversary.

Ex-RNC chair and Bush's campaign manager reveals that he's gay.

Women of Wal-Mart join together in a class-action discrimination suit.

German singer won't do jail time for exposing two men to HIV.

Cigarettes will no longer be free for those over 54 in Cuba.

Uranium drilling starts near Grants.

Old man in Santa Fe says the 15-year-old girl was teasing him.

Federal money will help New Mexicans buy food from farmer's markets.

President Obama will be in El Paso on Tuesday.

Rio Rancho may outlaw selling cats and dogs in pet stores.

Journal apologizes to Juarez, which is not the murder capital of the world.

Burger King's 2,500-calorie pizza burger.

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