All About Deaf Moths And Acoustic Camouflage

There are two species of deaf moths that have a “noise-reducing” exterior, which absorbs up to 85% of all sound waves. Read more about deaf moths and acoustic camouflage here.
All about deaf moths and acoustic camouflage

According to researchers, there are species of both hearing and deaf moths. In invertebrates, hearing is a trait that allows them to avoid their biggest enemy: bats.

Therefore, intensive research has been conducted on how deaf moths avoid predators. Want to know more about this fascinating phenomenon? Keep reading!

How does echolocation work and how do these moths avoid it?

First, it is important to note that bats detect their prey by emitting sound waves and receiving the echo from this signal from solid objects . If the material as the “bounce back” waves move, as is the case for moths in flight, the resulting signals will move in frequency.

Because of this, the changes in these waves alert the bat to the speed of change. This is also useful in the human world, as we use radio waves because they can travel long distances in the air, even in the presence of fog or precipitation.

It is important to emphasize that humans cannot hear ultrasounds such as those used by echo-locating bats. But some insects, such as moths, beetles and crickets, can. When an insect hears the predator, it can avoid it, for example by flying in a zigzag or spiral. By doing so, they can avoid becoming prey for bats.

In short, while many nocturnal insects – including moths – have evolved to hear ultrasound signals from bats, others did not, like the deaf moths in this article. How then do they survive predators that chase them?

deaf moths on trees

Deaf moths have a different strategy

Etomologists have identified the escape strategy for two species of deaf moths, Antherina suraka and Callosamia promethea . The researchers found that these deaf moths use noise-reducing scales on their bodies to avoid the detection of predators.

They also found that these hair-like growths can absorb up to 85% of the sound waves emitted by bats. In this way, these structures act as a kind of biological sound-absorbing coating.

Acoustic camouflage

Just as visual camouflage makes things difficult to see, acoustic camouflage makes the moth difficult to detect with echolocation. Although moths and butterflies have similar wings, most butterflies are active during the day and do not encounter the threat of bats.

On the other hand, moths that have nocturnal habits have scales on their bodies and around the wing joints, which are thicker and denser than butterflies.

The scales on the moth resemble a fur and absorb sound. In this sense, it is the scales that make up this biological armor structured on a microscopic level so that they vibrate at the right frequencies to absorb the ultrasonic waves that the bats emit.

People can draw inspiration from deaf moths

Several researchers studying deaf moths showed that the scales on the bodies of deaf species were structurally similar to the artificial fibers used in the commercially available sound insulation technology. The hope is that more studies will be able to contribute to the development of biomimetic materials from these scales.

This can contribute to the design of thinner noise control devices that are better at absorbing sound. For this reason, it is possible that researchers in the future may be inspired by these nocturnal moths to develop absorbers for broad spectra and ultrasound in several directions.

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