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How tree crickets tune into each other's songs

Date:
May 4, 2016
Source:
University of Toronto
Summary:
As temperature changes, tree crickets can adjust their ears at a cellular and therefore mechanical level to match the changing frequency of each others song.
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It's known as the cocktail-party problem: in the cacophony of sound made by insects in a spring meadow, how does one species recognize its own song?

Insects such as the tree cricket solve this problem by singing and listening at a single unique pitch.

But if that's the case, U of T Scarborough researchers wondered what happens when the temperature changes, because that affects the frequency of the tree cricket's song. The higher the temperature, the higher the pitch.

Natasha Mhatre, a postdoctoral fellow in the lab of Biological Sciences Prof. Andrew Mason, says it's all in their ears.

"When the temperature goes up, the males' wings move faster, so the frequency goes higher," says Mhatre. "The females also need to tune their ears so they can listen to that frequency."

As temperature changes, tree cricket ears adjust at a cellular and therefore mechanical level to match the changing frequency of the song. Mhatre conducted the study with Mason and Gerald Pollack, a McGill University emeritus professor who also works in the Mason lab.

To show this, they used laser Doppler vibrometry, which observes the vibration of any structure, even microscopic cricket ears. They also recorded the reactions of nerve cells to different song frequencies.

The study has been published in the journal Biology Letters.


Story Source:

Materials provided by University of Toronto. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Natasha Mhatre, Gerald Pollack, Andrew Mason. Stay tuned: active amplification tunes tree cricket ears to track temperature-dependent song frequency. Biology Letters, 2016; 12 (4): 20160016 DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2016.0016

Cite This Page:

University of Toronto. "How tree crickets tune into each other's songs." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 May 2016. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/05/160504141440.htm>.
University of Toronto. (2016, May 4). How tree crickets tune into each other's songs. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 23, 2017 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/05/160504141440.htm
University of Toronto. "How tree crickets tune into each other's songs." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/05/160504141440.htm (accessed May 23, 2017).

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