ABOVE: The swollen vein of a common wood nymph butterfly, Cercyonis pegala

Butterflies in the Satyrinae subfamily have ears at the base of their wings that they likely use to detect predators. Next to their ears are prominent, swollen wing veins whose function has been a mystery.

Now, researchers at Carleton University in Ottawa report that the veins appear to be part of the insects’ hearing system, and that when these inflated structures are ablated, butterflies lose their sensitivity to low-frequency sounds (below 5 kHz).

Scanning electron micrograph showing part of a common wood nymph butterfly’s ear

P. Sun et al., “In that vein: Inflated wing veins contribute to butterfly hearing,” Biol Lett, 20180496, 2018.

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