Fossils are great for giving us an idea of what dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals looked like - no bones about it. Now a remarkable fossil has enabled an international team of scientists to recreate the mating call of prehistoric katydids--cricket-like bugs of the Jurassic Period whose sonorous "voices" were last on the breeze 165 million years ago.
Talk about cool - and creepy.
The fossil in question--described in a paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences--is of a newly described species of ancient katydid known as Archabollus musicus. Like today's crickets and katydids (a.k.a. bushcrickets), the little fellow made sound by rubbing together structures on its wings - a behavior known as stridulation. But no one knew what its calls actually sounded like, until now:
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Now we know that the bug's song had a pure frequency of 6.4 kilohertz and lasted 16 milliseconds, according to a written statement released by England's Bristol University, home of some of the researchers. The scientists reached that conclusion by comparing the microscopic wing structures in the fossil to similar structures in 59 living species of bushcricket.
"This discovery indicates that pure tone communication was already exploited by animals in the middle Jurassic, some 165 million years ago," one of the researchers, Dr. Daniel Robert, said in the statement. "For Archaboilus, as for living bushcricket species, singing constitutes a key component of mate attraction. Singing loud and clear advertises the presence, location and quality of the singer, a message that females choose to respond to--or not."
And even if you're not particularly interested in the love life of A. musicus, hearing its mating call gives an eerie sense of going way, way back in time. As Mike Ritchie, a professor at the University of St. Andrews, told BBC Nature, "If you think of 'Jurassic Park,' we now know what it would have sounded like, and it's different from what we expected. It's much more like today."