Living With Sound Transformation


A Male Midge Detects Female Wingbeats With Its antennae

Sound perception in all animals requires the sound to vibrate some part of the animal and the vibriation be transduced into a nerve signal that can be processed by the nervous system.  In insects with dedicated auditory organs such as a tympanum or an antenna that vibrate, the transduction is mediated by a chordotonal organ.  Chordotonal organ is a catch-all term for the variety of structures that transduce mechanical movement into neural signals.   A chordotonal organ typically contains ligaments for attachment and a structure that can deform the nerves connected to it.  A chordotonal organ involved in hearing may be attached directly to a tympanum or antenna or indirectly attached to another structure (such as a  trachea in crickets) that connects to the chordotonal organ.  The connections between the primary sound receiver and the chordotonal can be quite complex and elaborate.

Chordotonal organs are attached to nerves and generate a nerve signal by stretching, compressing, or twisting the nerve.  The nerve itself can respond to the movement of the chordotonal organ by increasing or decreasing nerve output.  The components of insect ears: the receiver, the transducer and the nerves, can all be tuned to respond preferentially to some sounds but not others.  Much of the sound discrimination is built into the physical structure of the receiver.

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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2 Responses to Living With Sound Transformation

  1. Debra says:

    It is hard for us to imagine what life must be like some creatures. The other day I was walking toward a creek. As soon as I placed one foot off the path toward the creek millions of tiny fish scattered. I didn’t cast a shadow so I assume they sensed the vibration of that one step through their lateral line systems. How amazingly senstitive! The creek was a good ten feet away and about another ten feet deep. I wondered what a world like that would be like.

  2. Jon says:

    That’s wonderful. Wonder how strong their senses might be. Great post thanks for sharing.

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