‘Ears Like a Bat?’ – Not the Best Anymore!

Yes, Bats have incredible hearing, the best of any mammal, but it turns out that one of their favorite prey has developed even more sensitive hearing to elude its main predator – the common bat.

Meet the Greater Wax Moth.

Wax Moth


A native of Eurasia, the moth was introduced some time ago in North America, and bats find them very tasty in both locations.

Researchers at the University of Strathclyde discovered that the greater wax moth is capable of sensing sound frequencies of up to 300kHz – the highest recorded frequency sensitivity of any animal in the natural world.

Humans are only capable of hearing sounds of 20kHz maximum, dropping to around 12-15kHz as we age, and even dolphins, known exponents of ultrasound, can’t compete as their limitations are around 160kHz.

The research, conducted at the University’s Centre for Ultrasonic Engineering, has identified the extraordinary sensory characteristics of the moth, paving the way for developments in air-couple ultrasound.

Dr James Windmill, who has led the research at Strathclyde, said: “We are extremely surprised to find that the moth is capable of hearing sound frequencies at this level and we hope to use the findings to better understand air-coupled ultrasound.”

“The use of ultrasound in air is extremely difficult as such high frequency signals are quickly weakened in air. Other animals such as bats are known to use ultrasound to communicate and now it is clear that moths are capable of even more advanced use of sound.

It’s not entirely clear how the moths have developed to be able to hear at such a high frequency, but it is possible that they have had to improve the communication between each other to avoid capture from their natural predator – the bat – which use similar sounds.”

The research findings will allow Dr Windmill and his colleagues to further develop their understanding of ultrasound and how to transmit and receive ultrasonic pulses travelling in air.

With frequency sensitivity that is unparalleled in the animal kingdom, this moth is ready for any echolocation call adaptations made by the bat in the on-going bat-moth evolutionary war.

greater wax moth

Dr Windmill’s multi-disciplinary research team is now working to apply the biological study of this, and other insect ears to the design of micro-scale acoustic systems. It is hoped that by studying the unprecedented capabilities of the moth’s ear, the team can produce new technological innovations, such as miniature microphones.



About wordcloud9

Nona Blyth Cloud has lived and worked in the Los Angeles area for over 50 years, spending much of that time commuting on the 405 Freeway. After Hollywood failed to appreciate her genius for acting and directing, she began a second career managing non-profits, from which she has retired. Nona has now resumed writing whatever comes into her head, instead of reports and pleas for funding. She lives in a small house overrun by books with her wonderful husband.
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3 Responses to ‘Ears Like a Bat?’ – Not the Best Anymore!

  1. agogo22 says:

    Reblogged this on msamba.

  2. I have never heard of this insect. Amazing hearing. Being able to hear those frequencies boggles the mind. It’s a matter of survival. Those that hear bat homing squeaks continue to reproduce and those that don’t, end up as a meal for a bat. Ain’t evolution interesting?

    Did you know that dogs have “binocular” senses of smell? Each nostril can differentiate direction a smell is coming from. The dog inhales through the large nostril opening and exhales to each side through that curled slot on the side of the nostril. New scent molecules are not contaminated by old scents. Evolution at work.

  3. wordcloud9 says:

    Nature is pretty amazing. Did you see the earlier post here that scientists have discovered Elephants have the best sense of smell of any mammal, far greater than dogs? They didn’t say, but I wondered if part of why was the need to find water on the dry savannah.

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