Cricket Fossil Sings a Tune

Pest control news come in all shapes and sizes, covering wasps in the summer and termites and ants in the spring. While most pests are a nuisance, few come with a soundtrack.

Enter the cricket.  Scientists from the US and China discovered a prehistoric insect fossil that has retained extraordinary detail. So extraordinary in fact, that the structures that make up their wings were visibly preserved when viewed under a microscope.

The species, named Archaboilus musicus, gave scientists a view into how crickets create their telltale sound, or chirp, as it’s known. Crickets make their music using their wings and a bow-like structure called the “plectrum”. The plectrum resides on one wing and is dragged across a microscopic comb-like structure on the other wing.  The comb-like structure gave researchers a strong indication of how Jurassic crickets chirp.

When viewed under a microscope, the anatomy of the prehistoric specimen indicates that crickets use these structures on their bodies much like a violinist guides their bow over violin strings. Measurements were taken and matched against the anatomy of modern day crickets to establish a baseline. The result enabled researchers to ascertain that the Jurassic cricket had a musical tone much lower than cricket species we encounter today.

While the sound coming from a cricket ten minutes into a solo is certainly not Mozart or Lady Gaga, it is interesting to note that the scientists set out to recreate a sound not heard in 165 million years. Have a listen here. While the ‘music’ is unlikely to sell out any arenas or concert halls, its still an amazing feat that scientists figured out a way to reproduce a sound not heard nor produced in the last 165 million years! Initially, scientists speculated that crickets evolved the ability to make these sounds as a modern day response to being startled. In fact, the reason why crickets chirp is as old as time itself: the serenade of an insect looking for a mate.

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