Living With Sound Detection

tympanum

The large white membrane on the abdomen of this grasshopper is its sound detection organ, the tympanum

Insects most commonly use either a tympanum or antennae to detect sounds traveling through air.  Antennae are commonly used by diptera and have been studied in Drosophila and mosquitos.   Most other insect taxa rely on a tympanum.  The tympanum responds to the pressure of a sound wave.  The increase in air pressure as the sound wave hits a tympanum causes the tympanum to vibrate.  Your cell phone receiver works on the same principle.  A tympanum is sensitive to sounds that originate at a large distance from the insect.   The tympanum is useful for advanced warning of predator attacks or orienting to a distant potential mate.    Antennae on the other hand, detect the movement of air molecules caused by the sound.  Detection of particle velocity works best at close range and is useful for detecting nearby mates.

About jjneal

Jonathan Neal is an Associate Professor of Entomology at Purdue University and author of the textbook, Living With Insects (2010). This blog is a forum to communicate about the intersection of insects with people and policy. This is a personal blog. The opinions and materials posted here are those of the author and are in no way connected with those of my employer.
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