Media Release

Monday, May 4, 2015
3:00 PM US Eastern Daylight Time
7:00 PM Greenwich Mean Time
Tuesday, May 5, 2015
4:00 AM Japanese Standard Time
6:00 AM Australian Eastern Time
Ultrasound production and sonar jamming by moths
The emergence of insectivorous bats likely drove the evolution of ultrasound detection and
sonar-jamming ultrasound production in moths, according to a study. Many moth species
have ears that are sensitive to the ultrasonic sound waves produced by bat sonar, and some
moths also produce ultrasonic sound. Akito Y. Kawahara and Jesse R. Barber conducted
behavioral and phylogenetic analyses to examine why moths produce ultrasonic sound and
when the trait may have evolved. The authors observed the responses of hawkmoths to the
ultrasonic sounds emitted by bats in field experiments as well as interactions between
hawkmoths and bats in a laboratory setting. Of the 124 hawkmoth species observed, 57
species produced ultrasound in response to either tactile stimulation or ultrasonic sounds
emitted by bats during a predatory attack. Laboratory behavioral experiments indicated that
the moths' ultrasonic sounds jam bat sonar and thwart attacks. Phylogenetic analyses
revealed that ultrasound production arose in multiple, distantly related moth species starting
in the Oligocene, soon after insectivorous bats arose, whereas the use of ultrasound to jam
bat echolocation arose twice during the Miocene, after the diversity of insectivorous bat
species began to increase. According to the authors, the emergence of insectivorous bats
may have driven the evolution of ultrasound detection and sonar jamming in moths.
Article #14-16679: “Tempo and mode of antibat ultrasound production and sonar jamming in
the diverse hawkmoth radiation,” by Akito Y. Kawahara and Jesse R. Barber
MEDIA CONTACT: Akito Y. Kawahara, Florida Museum of Natural History, University of
Florida, Gainesville, FL; tel: 352-273-2018; e-mail: <[email protected]>
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