Fireflies produce ultrasonic clicks during flight as a potential aposematic anti-bat signal

Ksenia Krivoruchko, Aya Goldshtein, Arjan Boonman, Ofri Eitan, Jonathan Ben-Simon, Vu Dinh Thong, Yossi Yovel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Fireflies are known for emitting light signals for intraspecific communication. However, in doing so, they reveal themselves to many potential nocturnal predators from a large distance. Therefore, many fireflies evolved unpalatable compounds and probably use their light signals as anti-predator aposematic signals. Fireflies are occasionally attacked by predators despite their warning flashes. Bats are among the most substantial potential firefly predators. Using their echolocation, bats might detect a firefly from a short distance and attack it in between two flashes. We thus aimed to examine whether fireflies use additional measures of warning, specifically focusing on sound signals. We recorded four species from different genera of fireflies in Vietnam and Israel and found that all of them generated ultrasonic clicks centered around bats' hearing range. Clicks were synchronized with the wingbeat and are probably produced by the wings. We hypothesize that ultrasonic clicks can serve as part of a multimodal aposematic display.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102194
JournaliScience
Volume24
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - 19 Mar 2021

Keywords

  • biological sciences
  • ecology
  • environmental science
  • ethology
  • zoology

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