Who Is Ruling the Animal World With The Sharpest Hearing?

animal worldAs humans, we often use the saying ‘You’ve got ears like a bat’ to imply one has very good hearing. Why? Bats have extremely sensitive hearing, so to be likened to the mammal is indeed a compliment.

However, new research has shown that the webbed -winged animal is no longer the nature’s ruler when it comes to the sharpest hearing.

Findings published in the Royal Society journal Biology Letters reveal that it is in fact the humble moth that has the best hearing in the animal world.

Research found that the greater wax moth, otherwise called Galleria mellonella, has hearing 150 times more sensitive than a human ear, and it can hear frequencies higher than any other living thing.

For years the bat has used ultrasonic calls to locate insect prey. The furry little creatures travel in complete darkness by using a biological sonar system called echolocation. This involves ultrasonic chirps which interpret the sound waves bounced off objects close by. The process is so clever that it aids the bat to understand the exact location, direction and size of the object in question.

The moth on the other hand, uses microscale ears to listen for the approaching bat. Now, experts believe that the greater wax moth has developed an unprecedented hearing frequency sensitivity approaching 300 kHz, the highest record in any organism.

To put this into perspective, the bat’s echolocation calls are around 212 kHz and the human ear hears around 2-5 kHz.

Dr Hannah Moir, of the University of Leeds, told the Daily Mail: “Many species of moth have evolved ultrasound-sensitive ears owing to the predation pressure of echolocating bats – this system is one of the best known examples of an evolutionary ‘arms-race’ between predator and prey.”

A laser Doppler vibrometer (LDV), a state-of-the-art scientific instrument, was used to test the hearing of 20 moths. Researchers claim that the moth has developed a ‘supersense hearing’ for bat avoidance as well as possible courtship.

There is reportedly no bat in the world that is capable of producing high frequency calls equal to the greater wax moth.

Dr Moir added: “Such extreme auditory frequency sensitivity is unmatched in the animal kingdom.”

(Image free to use courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)