This Moth Has Better Hearing Than A Bat (Or Anything Else)

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The greater wax moth (Galleria mellonella) is locked into a high-frequency, evolutionary battle with the bats that prey upon them. Bats emit ultrasonic for the purpose of echolocation, sending out sounds at frequencies as high as 212 kHz. Now scientists have discovered that not only can the great wax moth hear the bats’ echolocation calls, but the moths can hear even higher frequency sounds, up to 300 kHz. The research team from the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland report their findings in Biology Letters.

Such auditory sensitivity is “unprecedented,” the scientists write. No known bat produces sounds at that high a frequency, so why the moth evolved to hear such sounds is a bit of a mystery. But the researchers suspect that the super-hearing helps the moths avoid predators or communicate with each other, perhaps in courtship.

“The use of ultrasound in air is extremely difficult as such high frequency signals are quickly weakened in air,” the lead researcher James Windmill said in a statement. “It’s not entirely clear how the moths have developed to be able to hear at such a high frequency, but it is possible that they have had to improve the communication between each other to avoid capture from their natural predator – the bat – which use similar sounds.”

Image courtesy of Sarefo via Wikimedia Commons

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