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Mosquitoes’ hearing properties profiled

Apr 2006
Researchers from the University of Bristol in the UK have discovered that mosquitoes can respond to sound by appropriately amplifying or reducing incoming noise for optimal hearing, and they are keen to understand how the insects mechanically respond to sound waves.

Mosquitoes hear through their antennae, each of which comprises about 15,000 sensory cells. The insects can create their own vibrations to amplify incoming noises to improve the sensitivity of their hearing.

Courtesy of Daniel Robert.

The scientists, led by Daniel Robert, used a scanning laser Doppler vibrometer from Polytec GmbH of Waldbronn, Germany, to measure the nanoscale movements of a mosquito antenna as it responded to sound. They created a three-dimensional map of its nanoscale movement. Using an atomic force microscope from JPK Instruments AG of Berlin, they measured the material properties of the antenna in response to nanoscale motion to observe its surface features.

The scientists believe that a better understanding of these minute movements of the mosquito’s antenna could lead to the development of tiny acoustic sensors that detect nanoscale vibrations from sounds at frequencies of human interest.

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