Cicada ear geometry : species and sex effects

Sueur, Jerome and Janique, Solene and Simonis, Caroline and Windmill, James and Baylac, Michel (2010) Cicada ear geometry : species and sex effects. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 101 (4). pp. 922-934. ISSN 0024-4066

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Many insect species rely on their sense of audition to find a mate, to localize prey or to escape from a predator. Cicadas are particularly known for their loud call and the conspicuous tympanal hearing system located in their abdomen. The vibration pattern of the tympanal membrane (TM) has been investigated recently revealing mechanical properties specific to species and sex. Although TM size and shape is likely to affect these patterns, the geometry of the cicada ear has never been examined per se. Focusing on three Mediterranean cicada species, namely Cicadatra atra, Cicada orni and Lyristes plebejus, we investigated the structure of TM shape variation at two levels, within and across species. Applying an elliptic Fourier analysis to the outlines of both male and female TMs, we estimated sexual dimorphism and species effects. Cicadatra atra showed a large TM compared with its small size, probably as a result of selective constraints related to the role of the TM in sound production. Sexual dimorphism seemed to be greater than interspecific variation, indicating that constraints operating on sex might be more selective than those acting on species identification. In addition, C. orni appeared to be significantly different from the two other species. This morphological peculiarity could be related to the unique vibrational pattern of its membrane. This would establish for the first time a direct link between the shape and mechanism of a hearing organ.


Sueur, Jerome, Janique, Solene, Simonis, Caroline, Windmill, James ORCID logoORCID: and Baylac, Michel;