Feeds

ULTRASONIC BOLLOCK BLASTERS help Hawkmoth battle The Bat

Noisy genitals scramble chiropteran sonar

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Remote control for virtualized desktops

In a development whose scientific importance would be difficult to exaggerate, it has been discovered that hawk moths emit powerful ultrasonic pulse beams from their genitals in order to intefere with the sonar senses of predatory bats hunting them.

As any fule kno, bats emit high-frequency sound pulses when hunting in darkness and listen for echoes bouncing back off obstacles, prey etc - an ability often dubbed "echolocation".

“Echolocation research has been focused on porpoises, whales and dolphins," says Akito Kawahara, assistant curator of Lepidoptera at the Florida Museum of Natural History. "We know some insects produce the sounds, but this discovery in an unrelated animal making ultrasound, potentially to jam the echolocation of bats, is exciting.”

Like an electronic-warfare aircraft seeking to jam a hostile radar scanner, it seems that the crafty moths belt out pulses of energy on the same frequency employed by hunting bats and so scramble the chiropterans' readouts. Kawahara and his fellow researcher Jesse Barber explain the deadly aerial battle that plays out every night in such places as the jungles of Borneo and the lower Amazon:

Bats and moths have been engaged in aerial warfare for nearly 65 million years. This arms race has produced a suite of counter-adaptations in moths, including bat-detecting ears. One set of defensive strategies involves the active production of sound ... moths' ultrasonic replies to bat attack have been shown to startle bats, warn the predators of bad taste and jam their biosonar.

It seems that the fluttering insects produce their ultrasonic-warfare pulses from biological transducers located in their gonads. We are told:

Previous research shows tiger moths use ultrasound as a defense mechanism. While they produce the sound using tymbals, a vibrating membrane located on the thorax, hawkmoths use a system located in the genitals.

Specifically, as one really might have expected:

Males do so by grating modified scraper scales on the outer surface of the genital valves against the inner margin of the last abdominal tergum.

Female moths are also thought to engage in jamming and spoofing of batty sonar, but the scientists aren't sure how as their private regions are arranged rather differently.

“We think hawkmoths are a primary food source for bats ... which is why they have evolved anti-bat ultrasound strategies,” Kawahara says. “Hawkmoths have evolved different ways of avoiding bats — I can’t even explain how amazing the system is, it is just fascinating.”

Full details of the bat-bamboozling bollock-blaster boffinry are published in the journal Biology Letters, here. ®

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

More from The Register

next story
Bond villains lament as Wicked Lasers withdraw death ray
Want to arm that shark? Better get in there quick
Renewable energy 'simply WON'T WORK': Top Google engineers
Windmills, solar, tidal - all a 'false hope', say Stanford PhDs
The next big thing in medical science: POO TRANSPLANTS
Your brother's gonna die, kid, unless we can give him your, well ...
SEX BEAST SEALS may be egging each other on to ATTACK PENGUINS
Boffin: 'I think the behaviour is increasing in frequency'
Reuse the Force, Luke: SpaceX's Elon Musk reveals X-WING designs
And a floating carrier for recyclable rockets
NASA launches new climate model at SC14
75 days of supercomputing later ...
Britain's HUMAN DNA-strewing Moon mission rakes in £200k
3 days, and Kickstarter moves lander 37% nearer takeoff
Simon's says quantum computing will work
Boffins blast algorithm with half a dozen qubits
prev story

Whitepapers

Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
How to determine if cloud backup is right for your servers
Two key factors, technical feasibility and TCO economics, that backup and IT operations managers should consider when assessing cloud backup.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Internet Security Threat Report 2014
An overview and analysis of the year in global threat activity: identify, analyze, and provide commentary on emerging trends in the dynamic threat landscape.