Journal of Comparative Physiology A

, Volume 181, Issue 5, pp 477–483

Bat-deafness in day-flying moths (Lepidoptera, Notodontidae, Dioptinae)

  • James H. Fullard
  • Jeff W. Dawson
  • L. Daniel Otero
  • Annemarie Surlykke

DOI: 10.1007/s003590050131

Cite this article as:
Fullard, J., Dawson, J., Otero, L. et al. J Comp Physiol A (1997) 181: 477. doi:10.1007/s003590050131


Assuming that bat-detection is the primary function of moth ears, the ears of moths that are no longer exposed to bats should be deaf to echolocation call frequencies. To test this, we compared the auditory threshold curves of 7 species of Venezuelan day-flying moths (Notodontidae: Dioptinae) to those of 12 sympatric species of nocturnal moths (Notodontidae: Dudusinae, Noctuidae and Arctiidae). Whereas 2 dioptines (Josia turgida, Zunacetha annulata) revealed normal ears, 2 (J. radians, J. gopala) had reduced hearing at bat-specific frequencies (20–80 kHz) and the remaining 3 (Thirmida discinota, Polypoetes circumfumata and Xenorma cytheris) revealed pronounced to complete levels of high-frequency deafness. Although the bat-deaf ears of dioptines could function in other purposes (e.g., social communication), the poor sensitivities of these species even at their best frequencies suggest that these moths represent a state of advanced auditory degeneration brought about by their diurnal life history. The phylogeny of the Notodontidae further suggests that this deafness is a derived (apomorphic) condition and not a retention of a primitive (pleisiomorphic), insensitive state.

Key words Insects Bats Ears Evolution Neotropics 

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • James H. Fullard
    • 1
  • Jeff W. Dawson
    • 2
  • L. Daniel Otero
    • 3
  • Annemarie Surlykke
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Zoology, Erindale College, University of Toronto, Mississauga, Ontario, Canada L5L 1C6, Fax: +1-905 828-3792; e-mail:
  2. 2.Department of Biology, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada K7L 3N6CA
  3. 3.Departamento de Química, Universidad de Los Andes, Mérida 5251, Edo Mérida, VenezuelaVE
  4. 4.Center for Sound Communication, Institute of Biology, Odense University, Odense M. DK-5230, DenmarkDK

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