Like many office workers, I currently find myself toiling away everyday in a building where coveys of gossiping womenfolk gather ’round tables and chatter away about Fifty Shades of Grey and their romantic lives and whether or not that super cute guy that used to be on One Tree Hill is coming to town next week.
I really hate those bitches.
My loathing for idle chatter aside, I will admit that I’ve always thought gossip a rather human (well, more like primate) thing. It’s hard to picture two does or a handful of squirrels sitting around and talking about their orgasms or which dude squirrel has the bushiest tail.
Turns out, I was wrong. Because moths are apparently chatty motherfuckers.
The major enemy of the moth is the bat (…obviously). As a defense mechanism, moths have developed ears that are sensitive to the echolocation cries of bats. However, scientists have learned that moths use those ears as more than just bat detectors.
They use them to communicate about sex.
It’s long been thought that moths were mute creatures, but we’ve learned that many moths actually do make sounds. These sounds are just so soft that bats cannot detect them. In fact, moths often communicate from incredibly short distances, no further than 2 cm from each other. Essentially, bats whisper to each other, which is why we’ve never heard them “talk” before.
But what are the moths talking about? Why, sex, of course! Turns out these whispered communiqués are quiet songs of courtship and soft chatter about sex and mating.
The truly interesting part about this discovery is the light it sheds on the evolution of communication for these moths. Originally, moths couldn’t hear. Then, about 50- 60 million years ago, something happened. These guys:
That’s right- once bats started flying through the night skies and using echolocation for orientation, moths had to come up with a new trick to survive. And so, they evolved simple ears (ears with just 1, 2, or 4 sensory cells) to catch the sounds of the deadly bats. And once ushered into the world of the hearing, moth communication evolved to take advantage of their new abilities, leading to the hush-hush sexy banter of today.