Washington: Researchers have showed that hawkmoths use sonic pulses from their genitals to respond to bats producing the high-frequency sounds.
The scientists said that this could possibly be a self-defence mechanism to jam the echolocation ability of their predators.
Study co-author Akito Kawahara, assistant curator of Lepidoptera at the Florida Museum of Natural History on the UF campus, said that ultrasound has only been demonstrated in one other moth group.
Kawahara said that the echolocation research has been focused on porpoises, whales and dolphins.
He said that it`s a known fact that some insects produce the sounds, but this discovery in an unrelated animal making ultrasound, potentially to jam the echolocation of bats, is exciting.
Study co-author Jesse Barber`s team from Boise State University played pre-recorded bat sounds to the insects, and all researchers studied hawkmoths` behaviour.
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.
Kawahara said that their team believe that hawkmoths are a primary food source for bats, as none appear to be chemically defended, which is why they have evolved anti-bat ultrasound strategies.
The study has been published online in the journal Biology Letters.