Audio: Ancient Katydid Sings From Beyond the Grave

By Veronique Greenwood | February 7, 2012 12:46 pm

spacing is important
Above, the fossilized teeth running along the katydid’s left and right wings
that researchers used to reconstruct the creature’s call.

Well-preserved fossils can tell paleontologists myriad things, such as what color feathers dinosaurs had, how ancient spiders evolved, and what kind of microbes were around 3 billion years ago. The latest such revelation is rather whimsical, as well as being scientifically interesting. Scientists have been able to reconstruct the chirping of a Jurassic ancestor of modern katydids by examining the wings of an exquisitely preserved fossil specimen.

Katydids create their song by scraping one wing across the other, running a hard ridge of tiny teeth, like those on a comb, across the ridge on the opposite wing. The research team examined the size and shape of the teeth on the wings of Archaboilus musicus, as the Jurassic specimen is called, to come up with an estimate of the frequency of the sound that such scraping would have produced. They found that the resulting chirping would have fallen at 6.4 kilohertz, within the range of normal human hearing.

So, if you ever get the chance to travel back 165 million years, keep your ears pricked. You might hear something that sounds like this:

Image and video courtesy of Gu et al, PNAS

  • rob

    Many years ago, the crest of the Parasaurolophus was reconstructed (I think it was from Sandia Labs, but it’s been a long time and I’m not sure) and the same type of claim was made. An interesting bellow was presented that was touted as being the voice of the creature. Curious, I wrote to the Lab and asked if they had duplicated their method with any existing / living animals. I wanted to know if their results with existing fauna bone structures was an accurate reproduction of what we knew through obseration to be accurate. Much to my surprise, they had not done any such experiment with existing animal life. How could they make the claim that this sound they had reproduced was a reasonable representation? So whether it was a reasonable facsimile or not, we’ll never know. How about these wings? Have we used the same techniques used with the fossil and reproduced them with imprints from a current Katydid?

  • ExPat

    Nice point. Seems rather fundamental.


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