swimming silently

July 11, 2007

notonecta glauca

Away from the complex sound world of the garden’s insects, the notonecta glauca hangs from the surface tension of the water in the pond doing the backstroke.  Of all the insects, it seems to be the most relaxed: mostly floating and occasionally flicking its ‘oars’ to propel it a little further along.

Although many insects make intentional sound (that is other than that produced by their normal activities, such as eating, walking and flying) we are not sure exactly what it is that they perceive.  Most probably they are able to hear within the frequency range of what they themselves produce, but what exactly that ‘sounds’ like we do not know.  Although it is reasonable to presume that the functions of producing sound and perceiving sound go hand-in-hand, insects have been discovered that have the capability to hear and yet appear to produce no sound, at least it has not yet been detected.

For those insects such as the notonecta therefore, I wonder what their world sounds like.  Certainly they react to visual stimulus as well as being tuned in to the ripples that their prey makes when falling onto the water’s surface just in time for dinner, but is it a silent meal?

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