KU News Release


Feb. 6, 2012
Contact: Brendan Lynch, KU News Service, 785-864-8855

Researchers generate musical call of 165-million-year-old katydid

More Information

LAWRENCE — A University of Kansas researcher and scientists from China and the United Kingdom have again played what may be the world’s oldest love song.


Click to play.

Using an exquisitely preserved mid-Jurassic katydid fossil found in China, the researchers have recreated the insect’s mating call produced by “stridulation” — the rubbing together of musical wing parts. Their findings appear today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“We were actually able to recreate that sound,” said Michael Engel, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and senior curator of entomology at KU. “The structures used to produce sounds generally aren’t preserved in katydid fossils. There’s a scraper and file on their wings that they run together. We found a specimen where you could see these structures in great detail. You can look and tease out what these two structures will produce in terms of sound.”

The team completed a paleobioacoustical analysis of the katydid fossil and using computers recreated the mating call created by the nocturnal katydid some 165 million years ago. It turns out that the song of Archaboilus musicus, the ancient species, could sound familiar to anyone who’s heard a modern cricket or katydid on a summer’s evening.

“During that time period it would have been a warm evening and, just like in the modern-day forest, it would have been teeming with life,” Engel said. “These were nocturnal insects, and at night there were probably a lot of activity in terms of insects and their predators. The katydids want to be able to call out to the mate, to sing their love song — but at the same time they don’t want to attract a predator like a frog or lizard.”

The KU researcher collaborated with Jun-Jie Gu, Ge-Xia Qiao, and Dong Ren from the Capital Normal University and Institute of Zoology in Beijing, along with Fernando Montealegre-Zapata and Daniel Robert at the University of Bristol.


The University of Kansas is a major comprehensive research and teaching university. University Relations is the central public relations office for KU's Lawrence campus.

kunews@ku.edu | (785) 864-3256 | 1314 Jayhawk Blvd., Lawrence, KS 66045

KU Today

Subscribe to our daily newsletter covering research, academics, media coverage, campus news, events & more. Subscribe

Connect

Contact

Related


The University of Kansas prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, ethnicity, religion, sex, national origin, age, ancestry, disability, status as a veteran, sexual orientation, marital status, parental status, gender identity, gender expression, and genetic information in the university’s programs and activities. Retaliation is also prohibited by university policy. The following persons have been designated to handle inquiries regarding the nondiscrimination policies and are the Title IX coordinators for their respective campuses: Executive Director of the Office of Institutional Opportunity & Access, IOA@ku.edu, 1246 West Campus Road, Room 153A, Lawrence, KS 66045, 785-864-6414, 711 TTY (for the Lawrence, Edwards, Parsons, Yoder, and Topeka campuses); Director, Equal Opportunity Office, Mail Stop 7004, 4330 Shawnee Mission Parkway, Fairway, KS 66205, 913-588-8011, 711 TTY (for the Wichita, Salina, and Kansas City, Kansas, medical center campuses).