Hawkmoths Deter Bats with Sonic Blasts

Entomologists have known for awhile that tiger moths emit sonic clicks to interfere with bats’ sonar and avoid predation.

Hawkmoths can do it too, it turns out! Jesse Barber, a behavioral ecologist with Boise State University and phylogeneticist Akito Kawahara of the University of Florida in Gainesville recently experimented with hawkmoths in Borneo. They captured moths and fitted them with small harnesses to keep them in place. When the researchers played bat sonar sounds to the moths, the moths emitted ultrasonic clicks in response to the sounds.

The exact purpose of the clicks is still unknown – they might jam bat sonar, or they might serve as a warning of the hawkmoths’ sharp, barbed legs or excellent flying skills.

This finding is also interesting because we now know of two groups of insects (hawkmoths and tiger moths) that employ this strategy. Entomologists think that they will continue to discover even more types of insects that click at bats.

Check out the article and accompanying video!

Theretra nessus, one of the clicking species studied in the article (photo by Shantanu Kuveskar)
Cechenena lineosa, one of the clicking species studied in the article (photo by Hsu Hong Lin)


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