Convergent evolution of anti-bat sounds
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- Corcoran, A.J. & Hristov, N.I. J Comp Physiol A (2014) 200: 811. doi:10.1007/s00359-014-0924-0
Bats and their insect prey rely on acoustic sensing in predator prey encounters—echolocation in bats, tympanic hearing in moths. Some insects also emit sounds for bat defense. Here, we describe a previously unknown sound-producing organ in Geometrid moths—a prothoracic tymbal in the orange beggar moth (Eubaphe unicolor) that generates bursts of ultrasonic clicks in response to tactile stimulation and playback of a bat echolocation attack sequence. Using scanning electron microscopy and high-speed videography, we demonstrate that E. unicolor and phylogenetically distant tiger moths have evolved serially homologous thoracic tymbal organs with fundamentally similar functional morphology, a striking example of convergent evolution. We compared E. unicolor clicks to that of five sympatric tiger moths and found that 9 of 13 E. unicolor clicking parameters were within the range of sympatric tiger moths. Remaining differences may result from the small size of the E. unicolor tymbal. Four of the five sympatric clicking tiger moth species were unpalatable to bats (0–20 % eaten), whereas E. unicolor was palatable to bats (86 % eaten). Based on these results, we hypothesize that E. unicolor evolved tymbal organs that mimic the sounds produced by toxic tiger moths when attacked by echolocating bats.