Hawk moths jam bat sonar with their genitals

A hawkmoth’s secret to avoid becoming a bat’s dinner is to counteract hunting sonar by rubbing itself

Over 70 species of hawkmoth produce ultrasonic sounds with their ridged genitals. These sounds jam a bat’s sonar, making it difficult for the flying mammals to sense the environment accurately. In a lab test, bats consistently missed moths that were producing ultrasound.

Bats and moths have evolved alongside one another for 60 million years, developing techniques to thwart one another. Bats produce high-pitched calls and listen out for the following echo, helping them build up a mental picture of the environment. This sonar system is extremely effective, but some moths have learned to counter it. Moths evolved ears that were sensitive to ultrasound and eventually developed organs that could produce ultrasonic noise.

 

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