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Loudest Animal

July 25, 2011

The mating calls of an insect called the water boatman are much louder than expected given the bug’s diminutive size.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):

A living underwater megaphone…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

SFX: Recording of Water Boatman songs

A tiny insect called the water boatman has been crowned the loudest animal for its body size. The males, which measure a mere 2mm long, sing underwater to attract females. Electronics engineer James Windmill of the University of Strathclyde in Scotland used specialized microphones to measure the insects’ prodigious volume. He and his colleagues were surprised that the miniature megaphones have been ignored by science for so long.

JAMES WINDMILL (University of Strathclyde – Glasgow, Scotland):

There’s a general rule of thumb in engineering and biology that to make not just a loud sound but a clear sound, the bigger you are then the louder the sounds that you can make and the clearer that sound is. However our recordings show that these guys are still making incredibly loud sounds.

HIRSHON:

He says the discovery could help engineers design smaller sonar and medical imaging systems. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.