Mating song of old cricket recalled


SMALL PRINT:IT’S INTRIGUING to see reconstructions from fossils of how animals looked in ages gone by. But what did they sound like? A new study claims to have reconstructed the sound made by a now-extinct bushcricket that lived 165 million years ago.

The clue came from a well-preserved fossil of a primitive bushcricket found in China that dates back to the mid-Jurassic period. A new fossil species, it has been called Archaboilus musicus.

The fossil wing anatomy shows details of the insect’s stridulatory organs, which would have been rubbed together to make a sound.

By comparing its features with living species of bushcricket, the researchers reckon A musicus was a musical creature that produced low-pitched calls.

“For Archaboilus, as for living bushcricket species, singing constitutes a key component of mate attraction,” said University of Bristol researcher Prof Daniel Robert. “Singing loud and clear advertises the presence, location and quality of the singer, a message that females choose to respond to – or not.

“Using a single tone, the male’s call carries further and better, and therefore is likely to serenade more females.”

But it may not just have been the lady bushcricket that heard the love song. “The low-frequency musical song of A musicuswas well adapted to communication in the lightly cluttered environment of the mid-Jurassic forest produced by coniferous trees and giant ferns, suggesting that reptilian, amphibian, and mammalian insectivores could have also heard A musicus’s song,” write the authors in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciencesonline this week.

There is also a reconstruction of the song at