Sunday, November 21, 2010

Ain't Nothing Shaking

National Institute of Biology, Slovenia
We think of insects communicating with clicks and chirps, but shaking?  A story in livescience.com* explains the mechanics of stinkbug communication, and it ain't stink.  It turns out that stinkbugs and burrower bug's leafy habitat isn't just for eating and shelter.

Researchers used lasers to detect the vibrations on leaves created by 21 different species of bugs they studied.  The vibrations are very low frequency but would be audible to us if they were louder.  The principal is similar to a tin can telephone, very rudimentary, but pretty sophisticated for a bug only one-half inch long.
"The insects displayed a wide array of vibration-producing methods, from fluttering their abdomens to shaking their entire bodies to tapping their front legs on the plant surface. Different species had different vibration patterns, limiting cross talk. Male and females of the same species also had distinct calls. For example, the researchers reported, female southern green stinkbugs call out with relatively long vibrations spaced far apart, while males call out with short bursts of vibration spaced closer together."
Different species produced a variety of frequencies, patterns and durations of calls.  Some shook their whole bodies, other just tapped their front legs on the leaf.  However they did it, it turned on another bug.  Just think, the old rock song "Ain't Nothing Shaking but the Leaves in the Trees," might have been a love song among stink bugs.

* Reported November 18, 2010 in Cancun, Mexico, at the second Pan-American/Iberian Meeting on Acoustics by researchers from the National Institute of Biology in Slovenia.

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