Sunday, January 10, 2010

harmonic convergence

strange fruit

It's very sweet. When they're doing this singing thing, they're reaching their legs across to the other one, trying to do footsies.

Medical entomologist Gabriella Gibson of the University of Sussex and the Natural Resources Institute of the University of Greenwich commenting on her mosquito research in Science.

Gibson found that two variant mosquito types -- which are visually indistinguishable -- find others of their type through the music they make:

Gibson and colleagues collected larvae of the two forms in Burkina Faso and raised them in the lab. Then they stuck a short piece of wire to their backs with beeswax and brought them within a few centimeters of another bound mosquito of the opposite sex. The pair flapped in place while a microphone recorded their "music"; mosquitoes sing by speeding up or slowing down their wing beats, which changes the frequency of their high-pitched whines.

The mosquitoes harmonized--but only with mosquitoes of the same form. A pair of two M or two S mosquitoes aligned their wing beats so that the female beat her wings twice for every three beats of the male's wings. Like a bowed violin string, the beating wings also created higher frequencies, which match when males and females are harmonizing. "If they're of the same form, they'll stick with each other with this harmonizing just for seconds on end," says Gibson. "If they're the two opposite types, they really won't come together."

A mating pair of mosquitoes in harmony (audio) »
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