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Scientists have discovered that the moth’s wing tip is an “acoustic decoy” to thwart bat attacks.

Atlas moth (Attacus atlas) has a powerful anti-bat acoustic decoy at the tip of its front wing. A composite image with a photo on the right half and acoustic tomography on the left half. Colors indicate echo intensity on the dB scale, and red indicates maximum echo amplitude. Notice the red highly reflective stripes created by the wavy part of the wing tip. Credits: T. Neil and M Olderied

According to new research, the wing tips of certain types of silk moths are configured to reflect sound and drive away attackers.


Researchers at the University of Bristol have discovered that the tips of the front wings of some Saturniidae are mysteriously wavy and folded. They found that these unique structures strongly reflected the sound. In short, bat hunting using echolocation is likely to attack the moth’s wing tip area above the body and can save the moth’s life.

They also found that the ripples and creases at the tip of the front wing evolved to act as retroreflectors for the hemisphere and corners, respectively. In other words, the sound is strongly reflected back to its original position. Combined together, these wing tip creases and ripples cover a wide range of incident sound angles. That is, the wing tip consistently produces the strongest echoes across the entire wing tip cycle of flying moths and the most likely positions of attacking bats. The acoustic protection of the wing tip is even stronger than the acoustic protection of a typical rear wing decoy.

Professor Mark Holdy of the Faculty of Biological Sciences in Bristol explains:

“Structurally, the wing tip acts as an acoustic retroreflector, reflecting sound from different angles to the sound source, which means that bats are more likely to hit the wing tip against the body of a more fragile moth. . ”

Scientists have discovered that the moth's wing tip is an

Photo of Atlas moth (Attacus atlas). This large silk moth has the most powerful wing tip decoy with ripples and folds. Credit: T. Neil

Survey results released today Current Biology, The latest revelation in the acoustic arms race between bats and moths. The battle between bats hunting moths using echolocation and the subsequent evolution of various defense strategies between moths increase their chances of survival.

Towed acoustic decoys are an established defense among some silk moths. These species have evolved elongated rear wings that end in a coiled, twisted end. The morphology of these elongated hind wings means producing very strong echoes. As a result, the acoustic gaze of the bat is often kept away from the exposed body of the moth, causing the bat to hit the tail of the moth’s consumables.miss moth All together.

Lead author Dr. Thomas Neil said, “I was interested in how to protect myself from bats because there are many silk moths that do not have these elongated hind wings. As a result of research, there are many silk moths with a wavy folded structure. It turns out that it is not at the tip of the elongated hind wing, but at the tip of the front wing. These resembled the twisted hind wing structure found in other moths, so as an acoustic decoy to thwart bat attacks. I also wanted to know if it would be useful.

“To test this theory, we used an innovative acoustic tomography analysis. We recorded echoes from moths from over 10,000 angles, and echoes from the tip of these moths were more than echoes from the body. We compared whether they were strong or not. The wavy wing tips were stronger than those of the body, indicating that they were certainly acoustic decoys.

“The definitive support for the idea that forering reflectors are acoustic decoys is that acoustic foring decoys have always evolved as an alternative to acoustic hindwing decoys, and we have no species known to own both. Comes from the discovery of. ”

Scientists have discovered that the moth's wing tip is an

Photograph of Sakusan (Antheraea pernyi). This silk moth has a strong wing tip decoy based on ripples. Credit: T. Neil

Researchers then collect behavioral data to corroborate their findings in the lab. They plan to monitor bats and moths with different levels of folded wing morphology to see how much they actually bring survival benefits.

Professor Holderlead added: “The results of this study bring another exciting aspect to the story of the acoustic arms race of bat moths. Identify new forms of acoustic defense of silk moths that may be more advantageous than bat hunting. Includes improved artificial anti-radar and sonar decoy architecture. ”

“The folds and ripples on the wing tip of Saturniidae create a decoy echo against the bat’s biosonar.” Current biology By Thomas Neil, Ella Kennedy, Brogan Harris, Marc Holderied.


Moths survive bat predation through acoustic camouflage fur


For more information:
The folds and ripples on the wing tip of Saturniidae create a decoy echo to the bat’s biosonar. Current biology (2021).

Quote: Scientists have discovered that the moth’s wing tip is an “acoustic decoy” to thwart bat attacks (September 9, 2021). html

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Scientists have discovered that the moth’s wing tip is an “acoustic decoy” to thwart bat attacks.

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