The researchers, Dr Patrício Simões, PhD student Robert Ingham, and Professor Ian Russell, from the University of Brighton’s Sensory Neuroscience Research Group, along with Professor Gabriella Gibson from the University of Greenwich, discovered that the male mosquitoes’ hearing organ is actually tuned to the frequency difference between its own flight-tone and a female’s flight-tone. The researchers’ work on this hearing mechanism, unique to the animal kingdom, is reported in the Journal of Experimental Biology.
Central to these findings, was the discovery and description of a stereotypical acoustic behaviour – a specific sound signature – which male mosquitoes produce when they detect female-like sounds. This never-before described and quantified behaviour is only observed in free-flying males. It enabled the researchers to ‘ask’ male mosquitoes what sounds characteristics are most attractive to males.
Researchers “unexpectedly and surprisingly” found a mismatch between the best tones that evoked the acoustic behaviour and the best tones detected by the hearing organ at the base of the antennae. This mismatch is solved by the hearing organ by detecting and amplifying the difference between the males’ own flight tone and that of a nearby female.