Bushcrickets can hear sounds that are beyond human hearing - these are high frequency ultrasounds. They use ultrasonic signals to communicate and find each other in lush rainforests. We show that their ears work similar to the human ear, therefore understanding its function is important. Bushcrickets have the smallest ears known from animals. Our displays and activities will engage visitors in both visual and auditory experiences of hearing in humans and bushcrickets. Visitors can enjoy recognizing bushcricket songs from Jurassic to living species, localising singing bushcrickets hidden in a rainforest, and hearing what an insect is actually hearing.
Bushcrickets have the smallest ears known in animals and use ultrasonic signals to communicate and find each other in the rainforests. Discover how similar their ears are to the human ear, and how they are improving our understanding of hearing systems.
Insects' ears are used for social communication and/or predator detection. These features need sensitivity to a wide range of frequencies including ultrasound. Humans can hear sound from 20Hz up to 20,000Hz; above this range sounds are considered ultrasonic. Ultrasonic communication has particularly evolved in bushcrickets. Bushcricket males produce songs by rubbing their forewings together to attract distant females. Their ears consist of two eardrums located on the forelegs, nevertheless these ears work similar to the human ear.
We aim to understand how female bushcrickets are able to locate the fading calls of their males and the mechanisms by which these exceptional ultrasonic ears convert sound into motion and then into neural impulses. In addition to helping us understand how hearing systems function, this research may help engineers to improve artificial ultrasound sensor systems used in many different fields, such as medicine, and influence the design of biologically-inspired microphones with remarkable sensitivity and broad frequency response.
Lead image: A new species, the Indigo bushcricket, in Pichincha, Ecuador.