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Symp Soc Exp Biol. 1995;49:199-218.

Insect sound production: transduction mechanisms and impedance matching.

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Department of Zoology, Oxford, UK.


The chain of sound production in insects can be summarised as: (1) muscle power-->(2) mechanical vibration of the sound-producing structure-->(3) acoustic loading of this source-->(4) sound radiation. At each link (-->) optimal impedance matching is desirable but, to meet other acoustic requirements, each stage has special properties. The properties of sound waves are discussed in the context of impedance matching between sources of different sizes or configurations and the surrounding fluid medium. Muscles produce high pressures over small areas, but sound sources produce low pressures over large areas. Link 1-->2 requires a change in the force: area ratio between the muscle and the sound source. Because the source size is necessarily small, sounds tend to be produced at a higher frequency than that of the driving muscle contraction, so link 1-->2 may involve a frequency multiplication mechanism. This can also be regarded as a mechanism of impedance matching between the aqueous muscle and the structure from which the insect produces sound. Stage 2 typically involves a resonant structure that determines the song frequency and is excited by link 1-->2. If link 2-->3 provides good impedance matching, the mechanical resonance is likely to be damped, with loss of song purity. So it is desirable for the stage 2 resonance to be sustained by coherent excitation and for the acoustic loading (link 2-->3) to maintain the dominant frequency between stages 2 and 4. Examples where this occurs are cricket wings and cicadas. At stage 3, the source size or configuration should allow impedance matching between the sound source (3) and its load (4). A variety of acoustic devices are exploited, leading to loud, efficient sound production. Examples that use resonant loads, tuned to the insects' song frequency, are the burrows of mole crickets and the abdomens of cicadas. Overall, the mechanisms of sound production of many insects are capable of producing songs of high species-specificity that act as long-range signals.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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