Scientists have re-created one of natures most sensitive sound detectors – the tiny hairs found on body parts of crickets, which allow them to hear predators and make an escape before they get close enough to catch them. Published today (20th June 2005) in the Journal of Micromechanics and Microengineering, an Institute of Physics journal, this research will help scientists understand the complex physics that crickets use to perceive their surroundings and could lead to a new generation of cochlear implants, for people with severe hearing problems, in the far future.
Crickets spend most of their lives on the ground, making them vulnerable to wandering and flying predators. Species such as the wood cricket Nemobius sylvestris have developed a pair of hairy appendages at the abdominal end of their body called cerci, which are incredibly good at detecting small fluctuations in air currents – the kind that might be caused by the beating of a wasp’s wings or the jump of an attacking spider.
Each of the hairs on a crickets cerci is lodged in a socket, which allows them to move in a preferred direction. Airflow causes a drag force on the hair, rotating its base and firing specific neural cells, which allows the cricket to pinpoint low-frequency sound from any given direction by using the combined neural information from all the sensory hairs on the cerci.
David Reid | alfa
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