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J Comp Physiol A. 2000 Jul-Aug;186(7-8):695-705.

Directionality in the mechanical response to substrate vibration in a treehopper (Hemiptera: Membracidae: Umbonia crassicornis).

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Neurobiology and Behavior, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA.


The use of substrate vibrations in communication and predator-prey interactions is widespread in arthropods. In many contexts, localization of the vibration source plays an important role. For small species on solid substrates, time and amplitude differences between receptors in different legs may be extremely small, and the mechanisms of vibration localization are unclear. Here we ask whether directional information is contained in the mechanical response of an insect's body to substrate vibration. Our study species was a membracid treehopper (Umbonia crassicornis) that communicates using bending waves in plant stems. We used a bending-wave simulator that allows precise control of the frequency, intensity and direction of the vibrational stimulus. With laser-Doppler vibrometry, we measured points on the substrate and on the insect's thorax and middle leg. Transfer functions showing the response of the body relative to the substrate revealed resonance at lower frequencies and attenuation at higher frequencies. There were two modes of vibration along the body's long axis, a translational and a rotational mode. Furthermore, the transfer functions measured on the body differed substantially depending on whether the stimulus originated in front of or behind the insect. Directional information is thus available in the mechanical response of the body of these insects to substrate vibration. These results suggest a vibration localization mechanism that could function at very small spatial scales.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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