Air Date: 25-Aug-21
Scientist: Dr. Bill Conner
ambience: Tiger Moths mating song
Here’s a program from our archives.
We’re listening to the summer serenade of a Tiger moth, slowed down thirty times so that we can hear it. I’m Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.
Conner: In the summer this is their prime mating time. The males and females are finding each other. And they do that chemically for the most part but what we’ve discovered is that they also use sound to communicate
Bill Conner is a professor of Biology at Wake Forest University in North Carolina. He tells us that some species of Tiger moths use sound to help locate a mate.
Conner: In some special species, the female starts the mating system by releasing a pheromone. When the male detects the pheromone he clicks. Then the female responds with clicks and they click back and forth and back and forth. It’s like acoustic fireflies. They get closer and closer together and then finally they make lots and lots of noise and they mate.
How can you tell whether the moth is responding to a sound or a smell? Well, by observing its behavior.
Conner: One way to determine if a moth is responding to a pheromone, a chemical signal versus an acoustic one is the way in which the moth approaches the source. With a chemical signal, it will always approach from the down wind direction. Picking up the scent molecules and moving up wind. With a sound source, it need not approach just from down wind but it can approach from any direction.
Scientists still aren’t sure why it is that some moths use chemical cues while others use sound to find a mate.
We’ve been listening to a program from our archives. If you want to hear more, check out our podcast. I’m Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.