Intense predation pressure from echolocating bats has led to the evolution of a host of anti-bat defences in nocturnal moths. Some have evolved ears to detect the ultrasonic biosonar of bats, yet there are many moths that are completely deaf. To enhance their survival chances, deaf moths must instead rely on passive defences. Here, we show that furry morphological specializations give moth bodies and wing joints acoustic stealth by reducing their echoes from bat calls. Using acoustic tomography, echo strength was quantified in the spatial and frequency domains of two deaf moth species that are subject to bat predation and two butterfly species that are not. Thoracic fur determines acoustic camouflage of moths but not butterflies. Thoracic fur provides substantial acoustic stealth at all ecologically relevant ultrasonic frequencies, with fur removal increasing a moth’s detection risk by as much as 38%. The thorax fur of moths acts as a lightweight porous sound absorber, facilitating acoustic camouflage and offering a significant survival advantage against bats.
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Stealthy moths avoid bats with acoustic camouflage
Thomas R. Neil, Zhiyuan Shen, Bruce W. Drinkwater, Daniel Robert, Marc W. Holderied; Stealthy moths avoid bats with acoustic camouflage. J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 1 September 2018; 144 (3_Supplement): 1742. https://doi.org/10.1121/1.5067725
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