Hawkmoths Use Genital Ultrasound to Combat Bats

Put this in the “Yew jus’ cain’t make this stuff up” file.

Yes, my little geeks and nerdlings, the boys and girls over at ScienceDaily.com have done it again.

Hawkmoths Use Ultrasound to Combat Bats

For years, pilots flying into combat have jammed enemy radar to get the drop on their opponents. It turns out that moths can do it, too.

A new study co-authored by a University of Florida researcher [1] shows hawkmoths use sonic pulses from their genitals… yes, you read that correctly, their genitals… to respond to bats producing the high-frequency sounds, possibly as a self-defense mechanism to jam the echolocation ability of their predators.

hawkmoth-2(Oleander Hawk Moth – Daphnis Nerii)

Echolocation research may be used to better understand or improve ultrasound as a vital tool in medicine, used for observing prenatal development, measuring blood flow and diagnosing tumors, among other things. The study appears online today in the journal Biology Letters.

For those of you who may find scientific journal reports a bit too dry and nerdy, NowMSN.com puts the story more succinctly…

Moth species uses its genitals to annoy the hell out of bats!

“Researchers have just discovered that the spiny-legged Hawkmoth uses its genitals to throw loud blasts of ultrasound at bats. Both male and female moths will rub their genitalia against their abdomen to produce the sound, which scientists think either serve as a warning to potential predators (“Hey, you think this is annoying, wait until you see our spiked legs”) or to “jam” the bats’ own sonar. “[This] is a really good strategy for insects to deploy,” ecologist Jesse Barber said.”

I told you you couldn’t make this stuff up!


[1] Akito Kawahara, assistant curator of Lepidoptera at the Florida Museum of Natural History.

Journal Reference:

  1. J. R. Barber, A. Y. Kawahara. Hawkmoths produce anti-bat ultrasoundBiology Letters, 2013; 9 (4): 20130161 DOI:10.1098/rsbl.2013.0161

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