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What Makes a Cricket’s Ears So Unique?

Wouldn’t humans look silly if our ears were located on our legs, just below our knees, like those of grasshoppers, crickets, locusts, and katydids? Very little was understood about these oddly-placed ears until 2012, when entomologist Fernando Montealegre-Zapata from the University of Bristol used a CT scanner to find out how katydid ears are constructed. He discovered that these tiny ears include two unique organs -- an acoustic vesicle that acts like the human cochlea, and a tympanal plate that acts like the auditory ossicles of our middle ear in order to transmit vibrations as sound.

Speak directly to the knee:

  • Crickets, grasshoppers, katydids, and locusts comprise the order Orthoptera. Orthopteran ears are some of the smallest in the animal world.
  • A cricket’s ears lead into chambers inside its legs, which connect to either side of the insect, allowing sound to completely pass through it.
  • Montealagre-Zapata thinks that Orthopteran hearing has evolved to the point where they can hear sounds other than their own serenades -- maybe even the high-frequency calls of insect-hunting bats.
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