Journal of Comparative Physiology A

, Volume 193, Issue 9, pp 917–925 | Cite as

Listening for males and bats: spectral processing in the hearing organ of Neoconocephalus bivocatus (Orthoptera: Tettigoniidae)

  • Gerlinde Höbel
  • Johannes SchulEmail author
Original Paper


Tettigoniids use hearing for mate finding and the avoidance of predators (mainly bats). Using intracellular recordings, we studied the response properties of auditory receptor cells of Neoconocephalus bivocatus to different sound frequencies, with a special focus on the frequency ranges representative of male calls and bat cries. We found several response properties that may represent adaptations for hearing in both contexts. Receptor cells with characteristic frequencies close to the dominant frequency of the communication signal were more broadly tuned, thus extending their range of high sensitivity. This increases the number of cells responding to the dominant frequency of the male call at low signal amplitudes, which should improve long distance call localization. Many cells tuned to audio frequencies had intermediate thresholds for ultrasound. As a consequence, a large number of receptors should be recruited at intermediate amplitudes of bat cries. This collective response of many receptors may function to emphasize predator information in the sensory system, and correlates with the amplitude range at which ultrasound elicits evasive behavior in tettigoniids. We compare our results with spectral processing in crickets, and discuss that both groups evolved different adaptations for the perceptual tasks of mate and predator detection.


Acoustic communication Predator evasion Receptor tuning Hearing Ultrasound 



characteristic frequency



We thank J.D. Triblehorn, O.M. Beckers, M. Talwar and R.L. Rodríguez for comments on the manuscript. This work was supported by grants from the University of Missouri Life Sciences Fellowship Program and grant Ho 3228/1-1 from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft to GH and the National Science Foundation to JS (NSF-IBN-0324290). Experiments comply with the “Principles of Animal Care” and with current laws in the USA.


  1. Deily JA, Schul J (2006) Spectral selectivity during phonotaxis: a comparative study in Neoconocephalus (Orthoptera, Tettigoniidae). J Exp Biol 209:1757–1764PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Faure PA, Hoy RR (2000a) The sounds of silence: cessation of singing and song pausing are ultrasound-induced acoustic startle behaviors in the katydid Neoconocephalus ensiger (Orthoptera; Tettigoniidae). J Comp Physiol A 186:129–142PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Faure PA, Hoy RR (2000b) Neuroethology of the katydid t-cell. I. Tuning and responses to pure tones. J Exp Biol 203:3225–3242PubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Fielden A (1960) Transmission through the last abdominal ganglion of the dragonfly nymph, Anax imperator. J Exp Biol 37:832–844Google Scholar
  5. Gerhardt HC, Huber F (2002) Acoustic communication in insects and anurans; common problems and diverse solutions. University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  6. Greenfield MD (1990) Evolution of acoustic communication in the genus Neoconocephalus: discontinuous songs, synchrony, and interspecific interactions. In: Bailey WJ, Rentz DCF (eds) The Tettigoniidae: biology, systematics and evolution. Springer, Heidelberg, pp 71–97Google Scholar
  7. Heller K-G (1988) Die Bioakustik der europäischen Laubheuschrecken. Markgraf, WeikersheimGoogle Scholar
  8. Holderied MW, Helversen Ov (2003) Echolocation range and wing beat period match in aerial-hawking bats. Proc R Soc Lond B 270:2293–2299CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Imaizumi K, Pollack GS (1999) Neural coding of sound frequency by cricket auditory receptors. J Neuroscience 19:1508–1516Google Scholar
  10. Imaizumi K, Pollack GS (2001) Neural representation of sound amplitude by functionally different auditory receptors in crickets. J Acoust Soc Am 109:1247–1260PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Kalmring K, Lewis B, Eichendorf A (1978) The physiological characteristics of the primary sensory neurons of the complex tibial organ of Decticus verrucivorus L. (Orthoptera, Tettigonioidea). J Comp Physiol 127:109–121CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Kalmring K, Schröder J, Rössler W, Bailey WJ (1990) Resolution of time and frequency patterns in the tympanal organs of Tettigoniids. II. Its basis at the single receptor level. Zool Jb Physiol 94:203–215Google Scholar
  13. Kalmring K, Rössler W, Ebendt R, Ahi J, Lakes R (1993) The auditory receptor organs in the forelegs of bushcrickets: physiology, receptor cell arrangement, and the morphology of the tympanal and intermediate organs of three closely related species. Zool Jb Physiol 97:75–94Google Scholar
  14. Libersat F, Hoy RR (1991) Ultrasonic startle behavior in bushcrickets (Orthoptera: Tettigoniidae). J Comp Physiol A 169:507–514PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Lin Y, Kalmring K, Jatho M, Sickmann T, Rössler W (1993) Auditory receptor organs in the forelegs of Gampsocleis gratiosa (Tettigoniidae): morphology and function of the organs in comparison to the frequency parameters of the conspecific song. J Exp Zool 267:377–388CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Miller LA, Surlykke A (2001) How some insects detect and avoid being eaten by bats: tactics and countertactics of prey and predator. BioScience 51:570–580CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Oldfield BP (1982) Tonotopic organization of auditory receptors in Tettigoniidae (Orthoptera: Ensifera). J Comp Physiol A 147:461–469CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Oldfield BP (1983) Central projections of primary auditory fibres in Tettigoniidae (Orthoptera: Ensifera). J Comp Physiol A 151:389–395CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Oldfield BP (1985) The tuning of auditory receptors in bushcrickets. Hearing Res 17:27–35CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Pollack GS (1994) Synaptic inputs to the omega neuron of the cricket Teleogryllus oceanicus: differences in EPSP waveforms evoked by low and high sound frequencies. J Comp Physiol A 174:83–89CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Pollack GS, Imaizumi K (1999) Neural analysis of sound frequency in insects. BioEssays 21:295–303CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Römer H (1983) Tonotopic organization of the auditory neuropile in the bushcricket Tettigonia viridissima. Nature 306:60–62CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Römer H (1987) Representation of auditory distance within a central neuropil of the bushcricket Mygalopsis marki. J Comp Physiol A 161:33–42CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Römer H, Spickermann M, Bailey W (1998) Sensory basis for sound intensity discrimination in the bushcricket Requena verticalis (Tettigoniidae, Orthoptera). J Comp Physiol A 182:595–607CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Schul J (1997) Neuronal basis of phonotactic behaviour in Tettigonia viridissima: processing of behaviourally relevant signals by auditory afferents and thoracic interneurons. J Comp Physiol A 180:573–583CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Schul J (1999) Neuronal basis for spectral song discrimination in the bushcricket Tettigonia cantans. J Comp Physiol A 184:457–461CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Schul J, Patterson AC (2003) What determines the tuning of hearing organs and the frequency of calls? A comparative study in the katydid genus Neoconocephalus (Orthoptera, Tettigoniidae). J Exp Biol 206:141–152PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Schul J, Sheridan RA (2006) Auditory stream segregation in an insect. Neuroscience 138:1–4PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Schul J, Matt F, Helversen, Ov (2000) Listening for bats: the hearing range of the bushcricket Phaneroptera falcata for bat echolocation calls measured in the field. Proc R Soc Lond B 267:1711–1715CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Schulze W, Schul J (2001) Ultrasound avoidance behaviour in the bushcricket Tettigonia viridissima (Orthoptera: Tettigoniidae). J Exp Biol 204:733–740PubMedGoogle Scholar
  31. Stölting H, Stumpner A (1998) Tonotopical organization of auditory receptors in the bushcricket Pholidoptera griseoaptera (De Geer 1773) (Tettigoniidae, Decticinae). Cell Tissue Res 294:377–386PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Wyttenbach RA, May LM, Hoy RR (1996) Categorial perception of sound frequency by crickets. Science 273:1542–1544PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Yack JE (1993) Janus green B as a rapid, vital stain for peripheral nerves and chordotonal organs in insects. J Neurosci Methods 49:17–22PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesUniversity of Wisconsin-MilwaukeeMilwaukeeUSA
  2. 2.Division of Biological SciencesUniversity of Missouri-ColumbiaColumbiaUSA

Personalised recommendations