Predator detection and evasion by flying insects

Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2012 Apr;22(2):201-7. doi: 10.1016/j.conb.2011.12.011. Epub 2012 Jan 7.


Echolocating bats detect prey using ultrasonic pulses, and many nocturnally flying insects effectively detect and evade these predators through sensitive ultrasonic hearing. Many eared insects can use the intensity of the predator-generated ultrasound and the stereotyped progression of bat echolocation pulse rate to assess risk level. Effective responses can vary from gentle turns away from the threat (low risk) to sudden random flight and dives (highest risk). Recent research with eared moths shows that males will balance immediate bat predation risk against reproductive opportunity as judged by the strength and quality of conspecific pheromones present. Ultrasound exposure may, in fact, bias such decisions for up to 24 hours through plasticity in the CNS olfactory system. However, brain processing of ultrasonic stimuli to yield adaptive prey behaviors remains largely unstudied, so possible mechanisms are not known.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Auditory Perception / physiology*
  • Ear / anatomy & histology
  • Ear / physiology
  • Escape Reaction / physiology*
  • Hearing / physiology
  • Insecta / anatomy & histology
  • Insecta / physiology*