Mechanical filtering for narrow-band hearing in the weta

F Montealegre-Z, D Robert

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

6 Citations (Scopus)


This paper constitutes a major attempt to associate tympanic deflections with the mechanoreceptor organ location in an acoustic insect. The New Zealand tree weta (Hemideina thoracica) has tympanal ears located on each of the prothoracic tibiae. The tympana exhibit a sclerotized oval plate, membranous processes bulging out from the tibial cuticle and many loosely suspended ripples. We used microscanning laser Doppler vibrometry to determine how such a tympanal membrane vibrates in response to sound and whether the sclerotized region plays a role in hearing. The tympanum displays a single resonance at the calling frequency of the male, an unusual example of an insect tympana acting as a narrow bandpass filter. Both tympana resonate in phase with the stimulus and with each other. Histological sections show that the tympanal area is divided into two distinct regions, as in other ensiferans. An oval plate lies in the middle of a thickened region and is surrounded by a transparent and uniformly thin region. It is hinged dorsally to the tympanal rim and thus resembles the model of a ‘hinged flap’. The thickened region appears to act as a damping mass on the oscillation of the thin region, and vibration displacement is reduced in this area. The thinner area vibrates with higher amplitude, inducing mechanical pressure on the dorsal area adjacent to the crista acustica. We present a new model showing how the thickened region might confer a mechanical gain onto the activation of the crista acustica sensory neurons during the sound-induced oscillations.
Translated title of the contributionMechanical filtering for narrow-band hearing in the weta
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)778 - 785
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2011

Bibliographical note

Author of Publication Reviewed: Lomas K., Montealegre-Z, F., Field, L.H, Parsons, S. & Robert, D
Publisher: The Company of Biologists Ltd


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