Ultrasonic hearing is widespread among moths, but very few moth species have been reported to produce ultrasounds for sexual communication. In those that do, the signals are intense and thus well matched for long distance communication. By contrast, males of the Asian corn borer moth (Crambidae) were recently shown to whisper extremely low-intensity ultrasonic courtship songs close to females. Since low sound levels will prevent eavesdropping by predators, parasites and conspecific rivals, we predicted low intensity ultrasound communication to be widespread among moths. Here we tested 13 species of moths including members of the Noctuidae, Arctiidae, Geometridae and Crambidae. Males of nine species, 70%, produced broadband ultrasound close to females. Peak frequencies ranged from 38 to above 100 kHz. All sounds were of low intensity, 43-76 dB SPL at 1 cm [64±10 dB peSPL (mean ± s.d.), N=9 species]. These quiet and/or hyper-frequency ultrasounds are audible to nearby mates, but inaudible to unintended receivers. Although largely unknown because it is so inconspicuous, acoustic communication using low intensity ultrasound appears to be widespread among hearing moths. Thus, acoustic communication may be the norm rather than the exception.
↵* Present address: Laboratory for Biolinguistics, RIKEN Brain Science Institute, Wako, Saitama 351-0198, Japan
Supplementary material available online at http://jeb.biologists.org/cgi/content/full/212/24/4072/DC1
This study was supported by Grants-in-aid from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (R.N., Y.I.), by Inoue Research Aid for Young Scientists (R.N.), and by the Danish Natural Science Research Council (N.S., A.S.). We also thank the Wissenschaftkolleg zu Berlin for fellowship support for A.S.
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