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SCV Outdoor Report: Top Gun Mantis

By Wendy Langhans

According to ancient Greek mythology, Cyclops were giant monsters with one eye.  But I never heard of any one-eared monsters.  Until now.  Meet “Top Gun” Mantis.

 

SCVOutdoor_Praying_Mantis

Last Thursday, I wrote about my young friend Drew and the Praying Mantis he spotted in his back yard.  As I was researching Praying Mantids last week, I discovered a fascinating fact - “they’re the only animals known to have just one ear”.  And it’s located right in the middle of its chest (otherwise known as the mesothorax).  This Cyclopian ear is actually a deep slit, with an eardrum (tympanic membrane) on each side.  For a picture of the ear, click here.

Normally, we think two ears are better than one.  After all...

Q: Which monster has the best hearing?

A: The eeriest!

But a mantis ear is no ordinary ear.  Our human ears hear frequencies of 20 Hz - 20,000 kHz.  (1 Hertz is a the equivalent of 1 vibration per second.)  However, most Praying Mantid species hear at ultrasonic frequencies, some as high as 120 kHz.  Their ultrasonic ear is a lifesaver, since it allows the Praying Mantises to hear the approach of one of their fiercest predators, bats.


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Bats hunt using a technique known as echolocation, emitting sounds at ultrasonic frequencies ranging from 20 - 200 kHz.  When a Praying Mantis “hears” an approaching bat, it engages in defensive complex aerial manuvers, much like a “Top Gun” pilot.  “In response to bat vocalizations, mantises perform turns, turns with dives and power dives. Turns are elicited when the ultrasonic stimulus is weak, corresponding to a distant bat, and turns with dives are observed with stronger ultrasonic stimuli. Power dives, in which the mantis directs the thrust from its wings downward to add to gravitational acceleration, are elicited by more intense vocalizations, corresponding to a nearby, perhaps attacking bat.”

Kind of takes your breath away, doesn’t it?

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Upcoming Outdoor Events:

Saturday, October 16, 8-10 AM, Birding Hike at Towsley Canyon.  For directions and trail maps, click here.

Fridayday, October 22, 6:30-8:30 PM, Things that go bump in the night at Towsley Canyon.  Everything changes when the hunters become the hunted and the blind become the seeing. For directions and trail maps, click here.

Trail Maintenance Schedule.  Come join our volunteers as they help maintain our trails.  Contact Steve at machiamist@aol.com for time and place.

Wednesday mornings, October 6, 13, 20, & 27.

Saturday mornings, October 9 & 23.

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You can listen to stories like this every Friday morning at 7:10 a.m. on "The Hike Report", brought to you by your hometown radio station KHTS (AM1220) and by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority.

For the complete MRCA hike and activity schedule and for trail maps, click here or go to www.LAMountains.com.

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