Bat-insect interactions date back millions of years, and the shared evolutionary history between echolocating bats and nocturnal insects have resulted in a suite of unique defensive strategies. Tiger moths and tiger beetles have escalated the arms race by beaming ultrasonic response signals back at bats. In tiger moths, these sounds have been shown to warn bats of bad taste, function in acoustic mimicry complexes and jam bat biosonar. The work proposed here builds upon this research group?s recent discovery that hawkmoths also produce ultrasound in response to bat attack. Unlike tiger moths, hawkmoths are not chemically defended, only males produce ultrasound and the structure of the sound-producing organ varies greatly across the family. This raises the prospect that anti-bat ultrasound production may be linked to multiple additional behavioral strategies, including cross-family acoustic mimicry, advertisement of physical defenses and/or evasive flight, and mating behavior; and that hawkmoth ultrasonic reply to bat attack has multiple independent evolutionary origins. The research team will test these hypotheses by 1) high-speed filming experiments of bat-moth interactions in the lab, 2) playback of bat echolocation attacks to moths in the field and 3) construction of an evolutionary tree built on molecular (DNA) data that will be used to examine the historical transitions of sound production. A primary goal of this collaborative research project is the training of a postdoctoral researcher, a graduate student and several undergraduate students. This proposal has been carefully designed to cross-pollinate research labs and transfer knowledge and skills between PIs and students. An exciting educational component is the use of live video streaming of field expeditions directly to high school classrooms. This work will also involve the production of a video highlighting the scientific method exploiting the charisma of echolocating bats and some of the world?s largest and most striking moths.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Integrative Organismal Systems (IOS)
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Michelle M. Elekonich
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Boise State University
United States
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