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Review
. 2015 Jan;201(1):19-37.
doi: 10.1007/s00359-014-0969-0. Epub 2014 Dec 11.

Active Amplification in Insect Ears: Mechanics, Models and Molecules

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Review

Active Amplification in Insect Ears: Mechanics, Models and Molecules

Natasha Mhatre. J Comp Physiol A Neuroethol Sens Neural Behav Physiol. .

Abstract

Active amplification in auditory systems is a unique and sophisticated mechanism that expends energy in amplifying the mechanical input to the auditory system, to increase its sensitivity and acuity. Although known for decades from vertebrates, active auditory amplification was only discovered in insects relatively recently. It was first discovered from two dipterans, mosquitoes and flies, who hear with their light and compliant antennae; only recently has it been observed in the stiffer and heavier tympanal ears of an orthopteran. The discovery of active amplification in two distinct insect lineages with independently evolved ears, suggests that the trait may be ancestral, and other insects may possess it as well. This opens up extensive research possibilities in the field of acoustic communication, not just in auditory biophysics, but also in behaviour and neurobiology. The scope of this review is to establish benchmarks for identifying the presence of active amplification in an auditory system and to review the evidence we currently have from different insect ears. I also review some of the models that have been posited to explain the mechanism, both from vertebrates and insects and then review the current mechanical, neurobiological and genetic evidence for each of these models.

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