Moths' area of expertise: Ultrasonic waves

For any animal to survive, its most urgent need is to identify predators and prey. Some species of moth have a major advantage in this regard, since they can hear the high-frequency sounds emitted by bats as they hunt.

A number of scientists and students at Tufts University examined the central nervous system of nocturnal moths. Their aim was to decipher the code system of the perceptions linking the central nervous system to the moth's ear and to determine how the moths managed to escape the bats, their greatest enemy. ("Moths and ultrasound", Kenneth D. Roeder, April 1965, Animal Engineering, p. 78.)

The study established that a special system in the moth's ear had infiltrated the bat's hunting system. From the ear, perceptions regarding the bat are sent to the central nervous system by means of only two fibers. This system, apparently so simple, is perfectly created to let the moth perceive ultrasonic waves.

As insectivorous bats hunt in the dark, they give off a series of high frequency cries. They locate prey by establishing the direction and distance of the source of these cries' echoes. This acoustical radar is so sensitive that it even permits bats to catch insects as tiny as mosquitoes. But some species of moth – members of the Noctuidae, Geometridae and Arctiidae families – possess ears capable of hearing the ultrasonic cries emitted by bats, so that they can escape being hunted down. These ears, located under the moths' wings, serve as an early warning system.

When they sense a bat emitting high-frequency sounds, moths make sharp dives or intricate loops, very different from their normal flight patterns. Sometimes they fly in the opposite direction to the approaching bat. Asher E. Treat of New York City University observed that moths flying in a different direction to a bat's approach have a better chance of survival than others. ("Moths and ultrasound", Kenneth D. Roeder, April 1965, Animal Engineering, p. 78.)

The moth's ear can detect ultrasonic bat cries, which we humans cannot, from up to 3,200 meters (10500 feet) away. In addition, they can also distinguish frequencies from 10 to 100 kilocycles—a range that includes bat cries. Their greatest ability, to identify short bursts of sound amidst periods of silence and the differences in their sound range, give moths a major advantage in their battle for survival.

In war, of course, it's very important for one country to get hold of its enemy's battle plan. Knowing the weapons and tactics the enemy will employ will make victory—or at least, survival—much easier. The advantage that a moth attains over bats is due to its being aware of the main tactic they use to attack. This of course, is a result of the moths' flawlessly designed creation. If the moth could not hear sounds as far away as the bats could, then the moth's ears couldn't protect it. By the time the moth detected the bat and sought to evade it, the bat would have homed in on it and caught it, due to its faster flight speed. Or the moth might perceive an approaching bat as actually farther away, or misinterpret the bat's location.

Yet from among all these alternatives, moths select the right course of action to avoid falling prey.

In one verse God reveals, "God is watchful over all things." (Surat al-Ahzab: 52) The moth's hearing is one of the countless proofs of this.

Like all other living things, moths survive thanks to the perfect systems He has created in their bodies and inspired them to employ. With the inspiration of God, they engage in rational behavior and make the right choices.

2016-09-04 21:37:26

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