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Moths Discovered to have Ultrasound Hearing

Update Date: May 09, 2013 12:11 PM EDT

Animals and insects continue to shock and amaze people every day with their abilities, such as an ant's strength or an animal's medicinal knowledge. The latest mind-boggling discovery comes from the insect known as the greater wax moth. According to a research team from the Strathclyde University in Glasgow, Scotland, this species of moths has the ability to hear the highest level of recorded frequency out of any other animals in the natural world.

The research team, headed by Dr. James Windmill, found that the greater wax moth could hear frequencies up to 300kHz (kilohertz). To get a better idea of how high this frequency is, humans can only sense up to 20kHz while dolphins reach the limit of nearly 160kHz. In order to measure how these moths could sense the high level frequencies, the team played sounds with multiple levels of frequencies. By using a laser that could measure the moth's tiny eardrums and electrodes that could monitor the moth's auditory nerve activity, the researchers could record how the moth reacted to the different levels. When the team played the frequency of 300kHz, they found that the moth's eardrums continued to vibrate along with neuron activity.

"We are extremely surprised to find that the moth is capable of hearing sound frequencies at this level and we hope to use the findings to better understand air-coupled ultrasound," Windmill said. Before this discovery, researchers knew that the North American gypsy moth could hear frequency levels up to 150kHz, while some bats had the ability to hear up to 213kHz. This finding sets the new record pretty high.

From their findings, the researchers plan on finding ways to develop new micro-acoustic systems. The findings were published in the Royal Society journal, Biology Letters.

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