Evenings at Whitney – Anti-Bat Strategies in Moths: Sonar Jamming and Acoustic Deflection
The Evenings at Whitney Lecture Series hosted by the UF Whitney Laboratory on Feb. 11, 2016, at 7 p.m., focused on how moths have evolved ultrasonically sensitive ears and ultrasound-producing organs throughout the past 60 million years to combat attacks from bats. The evening’s guest speaker, Akito Kawahara, a faculty member of University of Florida’s Florida Museum of Natural History, showed high-speed infrared videography of moths and bats to explain the function and evolution of anti-bat strategies.
Kawahara and his team examined how more than 140,000 moth species adapted to escape bats – their primary predator at night. Through that research, it was determined that moths have evolved ultrasonically sensitive ears and ultrasound-producing organs to combat bat attacks. Some moths appear to have gone a step further and gained the ability to interfere with bat sonar, allowing them to inhabit new environments. Other moths generate acoustic diversion with spinning tails to deflect bat attacks.
Kawahara is currently assistant professor/curator at the University of Florida. His research focuses on the evolution of insects, especially butterflies and moths. He has authored more than 70 peer-review publications, which include notable papers in journals such as Science and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. Kawahara completed his undergraduate degree in Entomology at Cornell University in 2002. He graduated with a master’s degree in Entomology from the University of Maryland in 2007 and a doctorate in the same program two and a half years later.