Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Tiny Ears Found on Butterfly's Wings

Tiny ears found on butterfly's wings

Butterflies were thought to be deaf until 1912

Scientists have discovered that a species of butterfly has tiny ears on its wings, according to LiveScience .

U.K. and Canadian scientists say the blue morpho butterfly, which lives in Central and South America, can distinguish between high and low pitch sounds. They believe the butterfly may use the ears to listen in on nearby predatory birds.

Butterflies were thought to be deaf until 1912 when the first butterfly ears were identified. In the past 10-15 years researchers have examined the anatomy and physiology of butterfly ears, which they are finding to be quite diverse and present in several butterfly species.

Scientists said the ear is located at the base of the wing and looks like a sheet of stretched rubber. The oval-shaped tympanal membrane, with an unusual dome in the middle, is attached directly to sensory organs and is responsible for converting sound waves into signals that can be picked up by nerve cells.

Because the butterfly's ear can distinguish between different pitches, it makes it unique among other insects that can hear.

"Not a lot of ears are able to do that," Kathleen Lucas of the University of Bristol in England told LiveScience. "The moth ear is a simple responding ear; it listens to a certain frequency range, and it doesn't matter what frequency it is within that range, [the moth] hears it and initiates an escape response."

Most insects can hear . Insects use sounds produced by vibration to communicate with other insects, and to navigate their environment. Grasshoppers and crickets are other insects that use tympanal organs to hear.

By MIKE BRODY, Special Contributor


Mother Nature is amazing - I love to learn more and more about her incredible mysteries.

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