"So much work has been focused on animals that are active during the day, but there are a lot of really interesting things happening at night, and we just don't know a lot about what is actually going on because we can't hear or see it," Kawahara said. "The fascinating part is that there are a lot of new discoveries to be made. It's a totally unknown, unexplored system."
Kawahara's team from the Florida Museum's McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity used high-energy lamps to capture the hawkmoths in the jungle. Study co-author Jesse Barber's team from Boise State University played pre-recorded bat sounds to the insects, and all researchers studied their behavior. With the insects tethered inside an enclosed sound rig containing an ultrasonic microphone and speaker connected to two laptop computers, researchers recorded the sounds the hawkmoths made in response to being touched and hearing the echolocation sounds. The responsive species include Cechenena lineosa, Theretra boisduvalii and Theretra nessus.
"As a museum, we are creating a library of life," Kawahara said. "Museum specimens are usually preserved immediately, but we are trying to understand the behavior of these organisms so that we have a record of their behavior along with the specimen and DNA. This is why there are so many interesting things we're starting to discover."
Hawkmoths are among the fastest and most proficient flying insects, and more than 1,400 species occur worldwide. Their long proboscis, or mouthpart, makes them important pollinators, since many plants may only be pollinated by hawkmoths.
Study collaborators plan to continue researching the use of ultrasound in hawkmoths, focusing on
|Contact: Akito Kawahara|
University of Florida