Journal of Comparative Physiology A

, Volume 200, Issue 10, pp 891–898 | Cite as

Hearing in the crepuscular owl butterfly (Caligo eurilochus, Nymphalidae)

  • Kathleen M. LucasEmail author
  • Jennifer K. Mongrain
  • James F. C. Windmill
  • Daniel Robert
  • Jayne E. Yack
Original Paper


Tympanal organs are widespread in Nymphalidae butterflies, with a great deal of variability in the morphology of these ears. How this variation reflects differences in hearing physiology is not currently understood. This study provides the first examination of hearing organs in the crepuscular owl butterfly, Caligo eurilochus. We examined the tuning and sensitivity of the C. eurilochus hearing organ, called Vogel’s organ, using laser Doppler vibrometry and extracellular neurophysiology. We show that the C. eurilochus ear responds to sound and is most sensitive to frequencies between 1 and 4 kHz, as confirmed by both the vibration of the tympanal membrane and the physiological response of the associated nerve branches. In comparison to the hearing of its diurnally active relative, Morpho peleides, C. eurilochus has a narrower frequency range with higher auditory thresholds. Hypotheses explaining the function of hearing in this crepuscular butterfly are discussed.


Butterfly Nymphalidae Tympanal hearing Scanning laser vibrometry Extracellular nerve recording 



We thank Ed Bruggink (Carleton University) and Vicky Pook (University of Bristol) for help rearing the butterflies. This work was funded by a Journal of Experimental Biology Travelling Fellowship to K.M.L., the Canadian Foundation for Innovation, Ontario Innovation trust, and NSERC to J.E.Y., the BBSRC to J.F.C.W. and D.R., and the Royal Society (D.R.).

Supplementary material

Online Resource 1. Animation of tympanal deflections in Caligo eurilochus at 2.5 kHz. (MPG 852 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kathleen M. Lucas
    • 1
    • 3
    • 4
    Email author
  • Jennifer K. Mongrain
    • 1
  • James F. C. Windmill
    • 2
  • Daniel Robert
    • 3
  • Jayne E. Yack
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of BiologyCarleton UniversityOttawaCanada
  2. 2.Centre for Ultrasonic Engineering, Department of Electronic and Electrical EngineeringUniversity of StrathclydeGlasgowUK
  3. 3.School of Biological SciencesUniversity of BristolBristolUK
  4. 4.Department of BiologyUniversity of OttawaOttawaCanada

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