News / Science & Technology

Scientists Recreate Ancient Mating Call from Dinosaur Age

Made from fossil of prehistoric cricket found in China

A vein of the fossilized katydid wing shows a row of teeth for song-making. About 72mm across, the wing is larger than a modern katydid's.
A vein of the fossilized katydid wing shows a row of teeth for song-making. About 72mm across, the wing is larger than a modern katydid's.

Multimedia

Audio
Rosanne Skirble

An ancient mating call from the age of the dinosaurs is back. Scientists at the University of Bristol in England have recreated the 165-million-year old love song from the fossil of a prehistoric cricket.

It was probably a noisy world, with thousands of other animal sounds, rushing streams and the rustle of giant ferns and coniferous trees.

Fernando Montealegre studies how insects sing and hear.

When he and his colleagues at the University of Bristol got their first look at a fossilized pair of katydid wings found in China, it was obvious that bug was a music maker.



Montealegre says Achaboilus musicus, as the new species was named, already displayed features that modern-day katydids use to make sound.

“One wing in extant species has a file vein, modified with a series of pegs and the other wing has a scraper. So they open and close the wing and during the closing cycle they produce the sound. The scraper hits the file teeth and generates vibrations.” 

Artist's conception of what the ancient A. musicus would have looked like.
Artist's conception of what the ancient A. musicus would have looked like.

Montealegre and colleagues compared the pegs on the vein on the 7-centimeter-long katydid wings’ with those of 59 living bush cricket or katydid species.  Unlike insects today that have varied rhythm and call patterns, Montealegre determined that A. musicus had a simple, single-frequency pulsing tone.

“It’s a primitive condition, just continuous singing. And in this case, the continuity would be a chirp every one second.”     

The male’s low six-kilohertz tone was especially adapted to carry over long distances at night.

The mating call rose from the forest floor and captivated females, despite other Jurassic distractions. Montealegre says that sound marked a new era in acoustic evolution.

“Many animals developed these acoustic capabilities. And it was a noisy environment and so they needed to produce private channels that they would attain with pure tones and tuning the sender and the receiver at the same respective frequencies for each animal.”

But any predator that could have picked up the sound would have been a problem. Mammals may have fed on them. It wasn’t until 100 million years later that bats appeared. By that time katydids had developed ultrasonic mating calls that their enemies could not hear.

The work is reported this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

You May Like

Nigeria Incumbent in Tight Spot as Poll Nears

Muhammadu Buhari is running a strong challenge to Goodluck Jonathan, amid a faltering economy and Boko Haram security worries More

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo tells VOA that despite her fame, life is still a struggle as she waits for government's promise of support to arrive More

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

At least seven different indigenous groups in Ratanakiri depend mainly on forest products for their survival, say they face loss of their land, traditional way of life More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More