Deaf moths employ acoustic Müllerian mimicry against bats using wingbeat-powered tymbals

Liam O'Reilly, David Agassiz, Thomas Neil, Marc Holderied*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)
454 Downloads (Pure)


Emitting ultrasound upon hearing an attacking bat is an effective defence strategy used by several moth taxa. Here we reveal how Yponomeuta moths acquire sophisticated acoustic protection despite being deaf themselves and hence unable to respond to bat attacks. Instead, flying Yponomeuta produce bursts of ultrasonic clicks perpetually; a striated patch in their hind wing clicks as the beating wing rotates and bends. This wing structure is strikingly similar to the thorax tymbals with which arctiine moths produce their anti-bat sounds. And indeed, Yponomeuta sounds closely mimic such arctiine signals, revealing convergence in form and function. Because both moth taxa contain noxious compounds, we conclude they are mutual Müllerian acoustic mimics. Yponomeuta’s perpetual clicking would however also attract bat predators. In response, their click amplitude is reduced and affords acoustic protection just as far as required, matching the distance over which bat biosonar would pick up Yponomeuta echoes anyway – advanced acoustic defences for a deaf moth.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1444
Number of pages9
JournalScientific Reports
Publication statusPublished - 5 Feb 2019


  • Microlepidoptera
  • Yponomeuta
  • acoustic aposematism
  • Müllerian mimicry
  • aeroelastic tymbal


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