Natures wonders: bat and moth sonar jamming (Introduction)

by David Turell @, Tuesday, June 14, 2016, 15:09 (1344 days ago) @ David Turell

Bats hunt moths by sonar. Moths can also produce sonar to warn or jam the bats:

"In many insects, bright coloration serves as an indicator of unpalatability and a deterrent to potential predators. But visual cues aren't much use against bats, which locate food using sonar. Tiger moths—potential bat prey—have found a way around this problem, according to a study published earlier this year (April 20) in PLOS ONE: they produce ultrasonic sounds to signal their toxicity.

“'The signals are, in essence, a warning to the bats that the moth is unpalatable and potentially harmful if ingested by the bats,” study coauthor Nick Dowdy of Wake Forest University said in a statement. He added that the study represents the first demonstration of this behavior—known as acoustic aposematism—in a natural setting.

"To demonstrate the importance of the signal, Dowdy and colleagues removed the soundmaking organs from two tiger moth species, Cisthene martini and Pygarctia roseicapitis, and then released them into a field. The researchers found that moths with intact organs were 1.6 and 1.8 times less likely to be captured than silenced insects in the two species, respectively—although bats spat out most of what they'd captured in all cases.

"The team also concluded that unlike Bertholdia trigona, a tiger moth known to use acoustic signals to jam bats' sonar, P. roseicapitis and C. martini did not produce sounds fast enough to have a jamming effect. “This means that in evolutionary history, these moths first evolved these sounds for use in warning bats of their toxicity,” Dowdy said in the statement. “Then sometime later, these sounds grew in complexity in certain species to perform a sonar jamming function.'”

Comment: This study shows the development of complexity through evolution. Still doesn't tell us how this is accomplished by the genome.

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