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Dolphin hearing system component found in insects
Date:12/13/2012

A hearing system component thought to be unique in toothed whales like dolphins has been discovered in insects, following research involving the University of Strathclyde.

The research is challenging ideas about how a large group of insects including crickets and katydids hear, revealing the unexpected similarity to toothed whale hearing.

Scientists from the School of Biological Sciences at The University of Auckland, with colleagues from Plant & Food Research in New Zealand, led the research with engineers from the University of Strathclyde working on the biomechanical aspects of the project.

They discovered that the iconic New Zealand insect, the weta, rely on a unique lipid a compound that includes oils and fats to hear the world around them.

Dr James Windmill, of the University of Strathclyde's Centre for Ultrasonic Engineering, said: "As engineers we are particularly interested in how sound interacts with certain materials and how it travels to and from a source. These findings help us to improve our fundamental knowledge and could inspire new systems in ultrasound technologies like biomedical and non-destructive testing.

"The discovery is interesting as previously only toothed whales were known to use this hearing system component, the lipid. There are many similarities in the use of lipids to amplify the sounds and help both animal groups to hear.

"We don't know why animals who are so far apart in evolutionary terms have this similarity, but it opens up the possibility that others may use the same system component."

The sound is known to be transmitted through a liquid-filled cavity to reach the hearing organs, but until the current research was carried out it was presumed that the liquid was simply the insect equivalent of blood.

The researchers found that it was in fact a lipid of a new chemical class. They believe the role of the lipid is to efficiently transmit sound betw
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Contact: John Beaton
john.beaton@strath.ac.uk
44-141-548-2924
University of Strathclyde
Source:Eurekalert

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