So small, so loud: extremely high sound pressure level from a pygmy aquatic insect (corixidae, micronectinae)

Jerome Sueur, David Mackie, James Windmill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

22 Citations (Scopus)
67 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

To communicate at long range, animals have to produce intense but intelligible signals. This task might be difficult to achieve due to mechanical constraints, in particular relating to body size. Whilst the acoustic behaviour of large marine and terrestrial animals has been thoroughly studied, very little is known about the sound produced by small arthropods living in freshwater habitats. Here we analyse for the first time the calling song produced by the male of a small insect, the water boatman Micronecta scholtzi. The song is made of three distinct parts differing in their temporal and amplitude parameters, but not in their frequency content. Sound is produced at 78.9 (63.6–82.2) SPL rms re 2.10−5 Pa with a peak at 99.2 (85.7–104.6) SPL re 2.10−5 Pa estimated at a distance of one metre. This energy output is significant considering the small size of the insect. When scaled to body length and compared to 227 other acoustic species, the acoustic energy produced by M. scholtzi appears as an extreme value, outperforming marine and terrestrial mammal vocalisations. Such an extreme display may be interpreted as an exaggerated secondary sexual trait resulting from a runaway sexual selection without predation pressure.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere21089
Number of pages6
JournalPLoS One
Volume6
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jun 2011

Keywords

  • intelligible signals
  • communication
  • acoustic behaviour
  • marine and terrestrial animals

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    • 22 Citations
    • 1 Article
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  • 1 Citation (Scopus)
    83 Downloads (Pure)

    Activities

    • 1 Types of Public engagement and outreach - Media article or participation

    BBC TV Springwatch Christmas Special 2011

    James Windmill (Contributor)

    26 Dec 2011

    Activity: Other activity typesTypes of Public engagement and outreach - Media article or participation

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