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ScienceShot: Crickets Sing Deeper When Cold

30 April 2012 4:51 pm
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David Cappaert/Michigan State University

A lesson for crickets wanting to sing like Barry White: chill out. Like most of their relatives, South Indian tree crickets (Oecanthus henryi) woo mates by rubbing their wings together, causing them to vibrate and produce sound much like a guitar string. But these bugs, which have especially long and transparent wings, are also slaves to the weather. When it gets cold out, tree cricket chirps drop in frequency by as much as an octave. To find out why, researchers employed lasers capable of detecting slight vibrations to measure how the wings of tree crickets buzzed during these calls. The appendages, it turns out, vibrate at several distinct frequencies—rather than just one like most crickets—making them versatile singers, the group reports online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. And when the weather turns chilly, the insects likely can't beat their wings as fast, meaning that they also can't hit those high notes. So while they can sing soul, opera may be out of the picture.

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