Predator/prey interactions represent life and death struggles, especially for the prey. Moths have developed a wide variety of behaviors to avoid being captured as they fly at night by bats. The researchers study a system in which species of tiger moths have developed the ability to "jam" the sonar, or echolocation, of bats. The moths produce high-frequency sounds that interfere with the bat's ability to hear echoes returning from the moth, making them very difficult to catch. During the first-ever field study of sonar-jamming, the experimenters discovered a sound that Mexican free-tailed bats make while competing for insects against other Mexican free-tailed bats. The bat's call has many similarities with the moth's jamming signal. Using high speed video and high frequency microphone arrays in the field and lab, the experimenters will determine whether bats jam one another deliberately while competing for food. If this is so (and preliminary evidence suggests that it is), then this would be the first discovery that any echolocating animal actively jams individuals of the same species for their benefit. This work will allow us to compare how jamming works in moths and bats, and how this compares to jamming in modern human warfare. This research may have implications for developing acoustic bat deterrents and in understanding the biology of animals that provide billions of dollars in insect pest control each year.
This research will educate graduate students, undergraduates, and grade-school children. The most exciting educational aspect of this proposal is a partnership with SciWorks in Forsyth Co., NC. SciWorks is a Science Center and Environmental Park visited by over 40,000 K through 12 students per year (many of whom are minorities and/or economically disadvantaged). The Conner laboratory will provide a variety of presentations and assist in the development of interactive exhibits for SciWorks based on the research described in this proposal.