165 Million Year Old Lovesong of Jurassic Katydid Reconstructed by University of Bristol Researchers

The Jurassic is a geologic time period of the Mesozoic Era that extends from 199.6± 0.6 Million years ago (Mya) to 145.5± 4 Mya, or from the end of the Triassic Period to the beginning of the Creataceous Period. Scientists from the University of Bristol have examined a katydid fossil from the Jiulongshan Formation (also known as the Haifanggou Formation, dated to be approxiamately 165 million years old) from Shantou Township, Ningcheng County, Inner Mongolia, China, and were able to recreate a sound made by these now extinct insects.

Like some amphibians, katydids (also known as bushcrickets) produce loud sounds by stridulation (rubbing certain body parts together). Mating calls from katydids are produced by rubbing a row of teeth on one wing against a plectrum on the other wing. What that song sounded like was unknown – until now.

Chinese palaeontologists, including Jun-Jie Gu and Professor Dong Ren from the Capital Normal University in Beijing, contacted Dr. Fernando Montealegre-Zapata and Professor Daniel Robert of Bristol's School of Biological Sciences. Dr. Michael Engel of the University of Kansas, a leading expert on insect evolution, also joined the team of reseachers.The Chinese palaeontologists produced a katydid fossil from the Jiulongshan Formation. The stridulating organs of the extinct katydid's wings were well preserved, and the Bristol researchers compared the anatomical construction to 59 living bushcricket species.They concluded that this animal must have produced musical songs.

Male katydids produced a single tone to serenade females. Using biomechanical principles, Dr. Montealegre-Zapata could reconstruct the song made by these insects. A video recording those sounds can be downloaded from the hyperlink below:

Research article: Wing stridulation in a Jurassic katydid (Insecta, Orthoptera) produced low-pitched musical calls to attract females

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