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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Article number1444
Number of pages9
JournalScientific Reports
DateAccepted/In press - 19 Nov 2018
DatePublished (current) - 5 Feb 2019


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.

    Research areas

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

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    Rights statement: This is the final published version of the article (version of record). It first appeared online via Nature Research at . Please refer to any applicable terms of use of the publisher.

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    Licence: CC BY


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