The team believes that the remarkable structure may be associated with the detection of predators, in particular birds. The Blue Morpho butterflies (Morpho peleides), native to Central and South America, are more famous for their amazing wing colouration and now turn out to have ears on their wings.
The simple ear sits at the base of the wing and looks like a sheet of stretched rubber. This oval-shaped tympanal membrane, with an unusual dome in the middle, is attached directly to sensory organs and is responsible for converting sound waves into signals that can be picked up by nerve cells.
Using a tiny laser beam, lead researcher Katie Lucas scanned the surface of the membrane while it was in action, and found that lower pitch sounds cause vibrations only in a part of the outer membrane while higher pitch sounds caused the entire membrane to vibrate.
The unusual structure and properties of the membrane mean that this butterfly ear may be able to distinguish between low and high pitch sounds, and measurements of nerve recordings suggested the butterfly is more sensitive to lower pitches. Butterfly hearing is unusually sensitive to low pitch sounds compared to other insects with similar ears.
The structure of the membrane could mean the butterfly can hear a greater range of pitches, which as Katie Lucas and her colleagues postulate, may enhance the abilities of these butterflies to listen for birds. The team suggest that sensitivity to lower pitch sounds may detect the beating of birds’ wings, while higher pitches may tune into birdsong.
The research was carried out by scientists working at the School of Biological Sciences, University of Bristol, University of Strathclyde and Carleton University, Ontario, Canada.
It was funded by a Journal of Experimental Biology Travelling Fellowship to Katie Lucas, the Canadian Foundation for Innovation, Ontario Innovation Trust, Natural Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), UK.
Auditory mechanics and sensitivity in the tropical butterfly Morpho peleides (Pampilionoidea, Nymphalidae) by Kathleen M. Lucas, James F. C. Windmill, Daniel Robert and Jayne E. Yack The Journal of Experimental Biology
Hannah Johnson | EurekAlert!
Immune Defense Without Collateral Damage
23.01.2017 | Universität Basel
The interactome of infected neural cells reveals new therapeutic targets for Zika
23.01.2017 | D'Or Institute for Research and Education
For the first time ever, a cloud of ultra-cold atoms has been successfully created in space on board of a sounding rocket. The MAIUS mission demonstrates that quantum optical sensors can be operated even in harsh environments like space – a prerequi-site for finding answers to the most challenging questions of fundamental physics and an important innovation driver for everyday applications.
According to Albert Einstein's Equivalence Principle, all bodies are accelerated at the same rate by the Earth's gravity, regardless of their properties. This...
An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...
Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...
Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.
While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...
Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales
Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...
19.01.2017 | Event News
10.01.2017 | Event News
09.01.2017 | Event News
23.01.2017 | Health and Medicine
23.01.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
23.01.2017 | Process Engineering