Image of the Day: Hearing Aid
Image of the Day: Hearing Aid

Image of the Day: Hearing Aid

A swollen wing vein helps butterflies detect low-frequency sounds.

Oct 18, 2018
Catherine Offord

ABOVE: The swollen vein of a common wood nymph butterfly, Cercyonis pegala
YACK LAB, CARLETON UNIVERSITY

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
YACK LAB, CARLETON UNIVERSITY

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