Researchers have discovered that a species of tiger moth eludes bats by jamming their echolocation with ultrasonic clicks. The discovery, published in the journal Science, adds to the list of defensive mechanisms that insects use to defend themselves against bats.
Aaron Corcoran and colleagues used ultrasonic recording and high-speed infrared video to determine that the tiger moth (Bertholdia trigona) effectively thwart attacks from big brown bats (Eptesicus fuscus) using ultrasound that jams bat sonar. They found that the defense was “effective immediately and persistently” on the bats that “that frequently tried to capture the clicking moths but had much difficulty doing so.” The bats continued their attacks despite their poor success in capturing prey.
The study is the first to demonstrate the use of sonar jamming as an predator avoidance mechanism by moths. Many moths rely on toxins to make them distasteful to bats or “startle” strategies to give them an opportunity to escape.
Aaron J. Corcoran, Jesse R. Barber, William E. Conner. Tiger Moth Jams Bat Sonar. SCIENCE VOL 325 17 JULY 2009