Mechanical specializations of insect ears

James F. C. Windmill, Joseph C. Jackson

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In this chapter some of the mechanical specializations that insects have evolved to carry out acoustic sensory tasks are reviewed. Although it is easy to perceive insect hearing organs as simplistic compared to other animals, the mechanisms involved can be complex. This chapter therefore acts as an introduction to the complexities of some insect hearing systems, as viewed from a mechanical perspective. The chapter provides some of the background knowledge readers require to investigate the subject in greater depth, while acknowledging that this subject is an active, developing, and broad area of research. Following a brief background section on the physics of sound as applied to the insect ear, the mechanical function of several insect hearing organs is discussed in relation to the different acoustic parameters that different insect species need to evaluate, such as frequency, origin, and amplitude. A further section then follows to discuss the mechanical basis of active hearing, whereby energy is added to the hearing system to condition its acoustic response, again using available examples. Finally, the chapter concludes with a discussion on the current state-of-the-art in this active research area, and makes some suggestions as to where the future may lead insect hearing mechanism researchers.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInsect Hearing
EditorsGerald S. Pollack, Andrew C. Mason, Arthur N. Popper, Richard R. Fay
Place of PublicationSwitzerland
Number of pages33
ISBN (Print)9783319288888
Publication statusPublished - 7 Jul 2016

Publication series

NameSpringer Handbook of Auditory Research
ISSN (Print)0947-2657


  • active hearing
  • antennal ears
  • cicada ear
  • directional hearing
  • hearing mechanisms
  • insect hearing systems
  • locust ear
  • mosquito ear
  • moth ear
  • tympanal ears


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