Dr. Fernando Montealegre Zapata, from the University of Bristol, studies how insects make sound by looking at their physical structures. He is able to use the fossilized remains of an insect to decipher how the sound is made and how that sound is used to communicate among individuals. This is precisely what Dr. Zapata set out to do when confronted with the tiny fossilized wings of an ancient cricket named Archaboilus musicus. This fossil is especially unique because the microscopic structures of its wings—the body parts that create the characteristic cricket chirp—are almost flawlessly preserved. A. musicus used the same method to create its sound that the modern cricket uses: one wing pulling along a comb-like structure across the other wing. Dr. Zapata extrapolated from a graph that he created using the frequencies of modern bush cricket chirps to determine what kind of sound this ancient cricket made. He discovered that the prehistoric insect made a sound quite similar to that of the modern katydid. The prehistoric cricket’s sound, however, had a lower pitch. This was probably due to the noisy Jurassic environment—Archaboilus had to differentiate its sound from other ancient noises if it wanted to succeed in attracting a mate.

Read more at BBC Nature.

Find the original article in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States.

Published On: February 29, 2012

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