Compressional and surface waves in sand: used by desert scorpions to locate prey

Science. 1977 Jul 29;197(4302):479-82. doi: 10.1126/science.197.4302.479.


Loose sand conducts compressional and surface (Rayleigh) waves at relatively low velocities (95 to 120 meters per second and 40 to 50 meters per second, respectively) compared to other natural substrates. For frequencies between 1 and 5 kilohertz, the specific attenuation factor, Q, for sand is 18. Compound slit sensilla on basitarsal leg segments of sand-dwelling scorpions respond to surface waves generated by movements of insects as far as 50 centimeters away, and tarsal sensory hairs respond to higher-frequency (mostly compressional-wave) components of the signal.