Luna Moth Uses Long Wing Tails to Undermine Sonar Locator of Attacking Bats

Rachel Nuwer, a freelancer writing for the Smithsonian web site recently, described some fascinating work that scientists had done to establish exactly how the large luna moth is able to fend off the attacks of sonar- directed bats. BioQuick was most impressed and provides much of Ms. Nuwer’s story here. “Animals have evolved countless ways to avoid being eaten, ranging from impeccable camouflage, to deadly venom, to fortress-like shells. Some even adopt a seemingly desperate, last-ditch method: distract predators into attacking a non-essential part of the body. Gaudy eyespots on butterflies and fish encourage predators to strike at the periphery of wings or fins, while some lizards’ bright tails can break off in a confused bird’s mouth. These tricks buy precious time for potential prey to escape their attackers. All of these tactics, however, rely on visual deception, so it would seem that predators using other sensory information would be immune to such strategies. Insect-eating bats, for one, rely on echolocation—sonar cries that bounce off objects—to locate and capture flying prey. Now, however, scientists have found that even echolocation can be fooled by expendable frills. Luna moths, the grandiose fairy queens of the North American Lepidoptera ball, can use their tails to divert bats’ attention away from their juicy, delicate bodies. When luna moths fly, two long frills on the ends of their chartreuse wings spin. According to an article published online on February xx, 2015 in PNAS, that elegant display can muddle bats' sonar and thwart a deadly attack."
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