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Galleria mellonella: World's Amazing Insect Breakthrough Bat-Moth Evolutionary War

May 08, 2013 07:37 PM EDT

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The Greater Wax Moth has the most sensitive ears of any living thing on the planet, according to a new study.

Researchers at the University of Strathclyde have discovered that the greater wax moth, scientific name Galleria mellonella, is capable of sensing sound frequencies of up to 300 kHz.

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Any mere man walking on the street can hear just 20 kHz, dropping to around 12 to 15 kHz as we age. Dolphins are capable of sensing sound frequencies of up to 160 kHz. High frequency signals easily diminish in air. Therefore, it is very difficult to use ultrasound in the air. Reseachers carried out the study, led by  Dr. James Windmill, at the University's Centre for Ultrasonic Engineering to understand the hearing capacity of moths. The team noted the extraordinary sensory characteristics of the moth and were surprised to find moth's capacity of hearing sound frequency.

Bats and moths communicate by producing ultrasound. Moreover, moths are capable of even more advanced use of sound. The fact that bats mostly feed on moths and use similar sounds moth does has led scientists to believe that moths, in order to improve communication with other moths and to avoid capture from their natural predator, have developed its hearing capacity. The other possibility is that their ears help females hear the mating calls of males.

Now, the team hopes to utilize the study to understand air-coupled ultrasound and the methods of transmitting and receiving ultrasonic pulses, which travel in air.

Since the frequency sensitivity is unparalleled in the animal kingdom; the greater wax moth is ready for any echolocation call adaptations made by the bat in the on-going bat-moth evolutionary war.

Applications

Scientists will apply the biological study of the hearing sensitivity of greater wax moth and other insects to the design of micro-scale acoustic systems.

The team will also produce new technological innovations, such as miniature microphones.

 

 

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