Journal of Comparative Physiology A

, Volume 155, Issue 6, pp 795–801 | Cite as

Acoustic relationships between tympanate moths and the Hawaiian hoary bat (Lasiurus cinereus semotus)

  • James H. Fullard


Certain moths possess tympanic organs (ears) that detect the echolocation signals of hunting, insectivorous bats. The auditory characteristics of these ears are matched to the acoustic features of the echolocation calls emitted by the moths' sympatric bat fauna. The two-celled ears of noctuoid moths from the Hawaiian island of Kauai, a site with only one species of bat (Lasiurus cinereus semotus), were electrophysiologically examined to determine their auditory threshold curves.
  1. 1.

    Kauaian moths possess peripherally functional ears with auditory thresholds broadly tuned to 15–55 kHz. Audiograms are intraspecifically stereotyped at these frequencies and thereafter exhibit considerable variability. Threshold variability at both high (>55 kHz) and low (<10 kHz) frequencies may reflect the absence of acoustic selection pressure at these frequencies.

  2. 2.

    Compared to the audiograms of noctuoid moths from a Nearctic site of low bat diversity (Ontario, Canada), Kauaian moths reveal similar sensitivities in the high frequency range (>85 kHz) but are significantly more sensitive to low frequencies (<20 kHz). The similarity in high frequency sensitivity in moths from these two sites is likely due to the common absence of bats echolocating at these frequencies.

  3. 3.

    Compared to noctuoids from a subtropical site of high bat diversity (Zimbabwe, Africa), Kauaian moths reveal reduced sensitivity to most frequencies above 25 kHz, frequencies regularly emitted by the Zimbabwean bat fauna. Kauaian moths, however, possess greater sensitivity to low frequencies (<15 kHz).

  4. 4.

    The noctuid moth,Ascalapha odorata, tested in Kauai and compared to individuals from Panama, a tropical high bat diversity site, shows significant differences which resemble the species-assemblage comparisons (i.e. reduced high frequency sensitivity and increased low frequency sensitivity).

  5. 5.

    Free-flying moths exhibited a variety of evasive flight maneuvres to escape the predatory attacks ofL. c. semotus. The auditory characteristics of Kauaian moths suggests that these insects detect both this bat's 9.8 kHz, social call and its 27.9 kHz, echolocation signal. This may represent a case of an insect prey exploiting the social behavior of a predator for its own survival.



Auditory Threshold Echolocation Call Auditory Characteristic Noctuid Moth Echolocation Signal 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Barbour RW, Davies WH (1969) Bats of America. University Press of Kentucky, Lexington, KentuckyGoogle Scholar
  2. Bell GP (1980) Habitat use and response to patches of prey by desert insectivorous bats. Can J Zool 58:1876–1883Google Scholar
  3. Belwood JJ, Fullard JH (1984) Echolocation and foraging behaviour of the Hawaiian hoary bat,Lasiurus cinereus semotus. Can J Zool (in press)Google Scholar
  4. Bishop SC (1947) Curious behavior of a hoary bat. J Mammal 28:293–294Google Scholar
  5. Black HL (1972) Differential exploitation of moths by the batsEptesicus fuscus andLasiurus cinereus. J Mammal 53:598–601Google Scholar
  6. Black HL (1974) A north temperate bat community: structure and prey populations. J Mammal 55:138–157Google Scholar
  7. Fenton MB, Bell GP (1981) Recognition of insectivorous bats by their echolocation calls. J Mammal 62:233–243Google Scholar
  8. Fenton MB, Fullard JH (1979) The influence of moth hearing on bat echolocation strategies. J Comp Physiol 132:77–86Google Scholar
  9. Fenton MB, Thomas DW (1980) Dry-season overlap in activity patterns, habitat use, and prey selection by sympatric African insectivorous bats. Biotropica 12:81–90Google Scholar
  10. Fullard JH (1982) Echolocation assemblages and their effects on moth auditory systems. Can J Zool 60:2572–2576Google Scholar
  11. Fullard JH, Thomas DW (1981) Detection of certain African, insectivorous bats by sympatric, tympanate moths. J Comp Physiol 143:363–368Google Scholar
  12. Fullard JH, Fenton MB, Furlonger CL (1983) Sensory relationships of moths and bats sampled from two Nearctic sites. Can J Zool 61:1752–1757Google Scholar
  13. Griffin DR (1971) The importance of atmospheric attenuation for the echolocation of bats (Chiroptera). Anim Behav 19:55–61Google Scholar
  14. Lawrence BD, Simmons JA (1982) Measurements of atmospheric attenuation at ultrasonic frequencies and the significance for echolocation by bats. J Acoust Soc Am 71:585–590Google Scholar
  15. Lloyd JE (1981) Mimicry in the sexual signals of fireflies. Sci Am 245:138–145Google Scholar
  16. Mohneke R, Schneider H (1979) Effect of temperature upon auditory thresholds in two anuran species,Bombina v. variegata andAlytes o. obstetricans (Amphibia, Discoglossidae). J Comp Physiol 130:9–16Google Scholar
  17. Novick A (1977) Acoustic orientation. In: Wimsatt WA (ed) Biology of bats. Academic Press, New York, pp 73–287Google Scholar
  18. Pianka ER (1983) Evolutionary ecology, 3 edn. Harper and Row, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  19. Pye JD (1972) Biomodal distribution of constant frequencies in some hipposiderid bats (Mammalia: Hipposideridae). J Zool 166:323–335Google Scholar
  20. Roeder KD (1967) Nerve cells and insect behavior. Harvard University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  21. Roeder KD (1970) Episodes in insect brains. Am Sci 58:378–389Google Scholar
  22. Ross A (1967) Ecological aspects of the food habits of insectivorous bats. Proc West Found Vertebrate Zool 1:204–263Google Scholar
  23. Shump KA Jr, Shump AV (1982)Lasiurus cinereus. Mamm Spec 185:1–5Google Scholar
  24. Simmons JA, Fenton MB, Ferguson WR, Jutting M, Palin J (1979) Apparatus for research on animal ultrasonic signals. Life Sci Misc Publ. R Ontario Mus, TorontoGoogle Scholar
  25. Spangler HG, Greenfield MD, Takessian A (1984) Ultrasonic mate calling in the lesser wax moth. Physiol Entomol 9:87–95Google Scholar
  26. Tuttle MD, Ryan MJ (1981) Bat predation and the evolution of frog vocalizations in the neotropics. Science 214:677–678Google Scholar
  27. Whitaker JO Jr, Tomich PQ (1983) Food habits of the hoary bat,Lasiurus cinereus, from Hawaii. J Mammal 64:151–152Google Scholar
  28. Zar JH (1974) Biostatistical analysis. Prentice Hall, Englewood CliffsGoogle Scholar
  29. Zimmerman EC (1958) Insects of Hawaii, vol 7, Macrolepidoptera. University of Hawaii Press, HonoluluGoogle Scholar
  30. Zinn TL, Baker WW (1979) Seasonal migration of the hoary bat,Lasiurus cinereus, through Florida. J Mammal 60:634–635Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1984

Authors and Affiliations

  • James H. Fullard
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Biology, Erindale CollegeUniversity of TorontoMississaugaCanada

Personalised recommendations