Sex in the city: grasshoppers pump up the bass

Comment on this story
iol scitech nov 14 grasshopper INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS Grasshoppers change the song so that it boosts lower-frequency notes, making it audible over the rumble from the road. PICTURE: ANDREW INGRAM

Paris - For city grasshoppers, noise just isn't cricket.

Loud traffic drowns out the song the male grasshopper makes, rubbing a toothed file on his hind legs against a protruding vein on his front wings, to lure a mate.

But, German biologists have discovered, the clever insect has found a way to get his offer of romance through the din.

Grasshoppers change the song so that it boosts lower-frequency notes, making it audible over the rumble from the road.

Ulrike Lampe and colleagues from the University of Bielefeld captured 188 male bow-winged grasshoppers (Chorthippus biguttulus), half from quiet locations and half from beside busy roads.

The team made nearly 1,000 lab recordings of each grasshopper, placing a cute female grasshopper nearby to encourage a serenade.

“Bow-winged grasshoppers produce songs that include low- and high-frequency components,” said Lampe.

“We found that grasshoppers from noisy habitats boost the volume of the lower-frequency part of their song, which makes sense since road noise can mask signals in this part of the frequency spectrum.”

The findings add insects to the list of animals, including species of birds, whales and frogs, that have been found to alter their sounds in order to cope with man-made noise.

The paper appears in Functional Ecology, published by the British Ecological Society (BES).

Bow-winged grasshoppers are a common species in central Europe.

The male's courtship song consists of up to half a dozen phrases, each about two or three seconds long. The phrase starts with a ticking sound, becomes louder and ends in a buzz. - Sapa-AFP

Hungry for more scitech news? Sign up for our daily newsletter



sign up
 
 

Comment Guidelines



  1. Please read our comment guidelines.
  2. Login and register, if you haven’ t already.
  3. Write your comment in the block below and click (Post As)
  4. Has a comment offended you? Hover your mouse over the comment and wait until a small triangle appears on the right-hand side. Click triangle () and select "Flag as inappropriate". Our moderators will take action if need be.