Moths' sphere of expertise: Ultrasonic waves

A group of students and scientists from Tufts University obtained miraculous results by investigating moths’ central nervous systems. Their aim was to decipher the code of the perceptions linking the moth’s central nervous system to the ear and to discover how moths are able to escape from bats.

As a result of this research it was learned that thanks to a special system in their ears, moths have broken through the bat’s hunting system. Messages concerning the bat are sent from the moth’s ear to the central nervous system by means of just two fibers. This system, which gives the impression of having a very simple structure, actually possesses a perfect creation that allows the moth to detect ultrasonic frequencies.

The Early Warning System in the Ears

As they fly at night, insect-hunting bats emit a series of high-frequency cries. This enables them to locate their prey by determining the direction and distance of the source of the resulting echoes. This radar is so sensitive that it enables bats to locate and catch insects even smaller than mosquitoes. The bat is a highly successful hunter, but some species of nocturnal moth, members of the families Noctuidae, Geometridae and Arctiidae, have ears capable of hearing bats’ ultrasonic cries. These ears are located under the moths’ wings and function like an early warning system. This saves them from falling prey to bats.

When they hear a bat approaching, the moths make sharp dives or complicated loops different to their usual flight patterns. They sometimes fly in the exact opposite direction to the high-frequency sounds emitted at maximum velocity by the bat. Asher E. Treat from New York University observed that moths moving in a different direction to that of the bats’ approach had a higher likelihood of survival than others.

The moth ear can detect ultrasonic bat cries imperceptible to us from a distance of 3,200 meters (1,988 miles) away. In addition, it can detect bat cry frequencies ranging from 10 to 100 kilocycles a second. Its greatest ability is to detect sound bursts, in other words, short explosions of sound punctuated by silence, and to distinguish between sound collision heights. These bestow a great advantage on the moth in its war against the bat.

Obtaining the Enemy’s Battle Plans

It is of course of great importance for one of two warring countries to lay hands on the other’s battle plans. Knowing the characteristics of the weapons that will be used and the tactics the enemy will employ in his attack is information that will make victory much easier. The victory of moths over bats happens thanks to moths being aware of all the offensive tactics used by the latter. This is of course a consequence of the flawless structure in moths’ creation. As the moth detects the sound of the bat, there are a number of alternative possibilities regarding what might ensue. However, the one that most serves the moth’s needs is what actually takes place, and the moth duly escapes the bat. Let us now emphasize the importance of the moth’s achievement by examining these possibilities:

If the moth’s sound perception range were narrower than that of the bat, its ears would be unable to protect it from the predator. In such an event, even if the moth were to be aware of the bat and attempt to escape from it, the bat would nevertheless detect it and, since it flies faster than the moth, would eventually catch it. Another possibility is that the moth might perceive a bat very close to it as actually being some distance away, or it might misinterpret the direction of the sound emitted by the bat and fly right into it.

However, of all these possibilities, the best one for the moth actually transpires, and it escapes falling prey to the bat.

In verse 52 of Surat al-Ahzab we are told that “Allah is watchful over all things”. Like all the living things on Earth, moths also survive thanks to the perfect systems created in their bodies by Almighty Allah (God) and to their being inspired with the knowledge of how to use them. Again under the inspiration of Almighty Allah they behave in a perfect manner and make the correct choices. This flawless system in moths is just one of our Lord’s countless proofs of Creation.

The Immaculate Hearing System in Moths

Just as it was provided in the book Animal Engineering, based on articles published in the magazine Scientific American, there is a flawlessly complex system in moths’ bodies.

Ears of moths are placed in the rear sides of moths’ chest. The hearing organ is placed in a passage, which divides the chest and abdomen of the moth. For an outsider, the ears may resemble two cavities. In each cavity, there is a transparent tympanic membrane.

As we shall be seeing in detail, all the details in the moth ear are of such a kind as to allow it to hear better and analyze the cries of the bat.

In that section of the passage known as the middle ear there is an air sac immediately behind the tympanic membrane. This sac is filled with a fine line of tissue extending right along its length. This tissue contains the components of the moth’s hearing system and extends from the middle of the membrane up to the skeleton support. There are two cells, known as “A” cells, on this line. All the information regarding the high-frequency sounds detected by the moth is forwarded by these A fibers, known as A1 and A2, to the central nervous system.

The electrical impulses in the nerve fibers are just one to two thousandths of a volt in strength. The signals in the moth’s A fibers reach the central nervous system from the sense cells in less than two thousandths of a second.

These nerves have the capacity to detect the sounds emitted by bats. They are also very sensitive when it comes to identifying their wavelengths and alterations therein. Thanks to all these properties of the fibers, the moth is able to distinguish between the long and weak cry of a distant moth and the strong cries of one approaching to kill it.

The Moth’s Support Systems

The fact that the moth has two ears allows it to determine the direction of the source of the sound. If the bat is to the left of the moth, sound waves coming from the right are perceived around one thousandth of a second later than those on the left. This difference between the two ears is sufficient for the moth to determine the direction of the source of the sound.

The astonishing features in the moth’s ears are by no means limited to these. Some moths’ ears have a cover consisting of a membrane-like structure. This serves just like our external ears, contributing to the strengthening of hearing capacity by gathering up sounds.

In addition to all this, some moths go even further than detecting ultrasonic sounds; they are also able to emit them. Rather than flee when they detect a bat, these moths give off ultrasonic noises. This is an astonishing state of affairs, because bats are literally masters of ultrasonic sound detection. Yet contrary to what is imagined, bats prefer to move off when they encounter such moths. Scientists think there may be two reasons for this behavior:

1- The sound emitted by the moth impairs the bat’s detection system.
2- Sound-emitting moths taste unpleasant to bats. When the bat perceives this sound it thinks it will encounter unpleasant tasting prey.


When all the information provided so far is examined, evident consciousness can be seen in the way moths behave, and the flawless creation in their bodies also draws one’s attention. The moth’s perception of ultrasonic waves, its ability to interpret them, and its emission of counter-waves are all features requiring their own separate designs.

The amazing creations in moths are just one of the countless proofs showing the flawless manner in which Allah (God) has created living things. The creation in living things clearly proves that living things did not emerge by chance, as evolutionists maintain, but that they were brought into being with a sublime creation. There is no doubt that it is Almighty Allah (God) Who creates all things, living or inanimate, in the most perfect manner. Our Lord’s infinite might and the height of His glory are revealed thus in verses:

Everyone in the heavens and earth belongs to Him. All are submissive to Him. It is He Who originated creation and then regenerates it. That is very easy for Him. His is the most exalted designation in the heavens and the Earth. He is the Almighty, the All-Wise. (Surat ar-Rum, 26-27)

It is the most important priority for an animal to realize its enemy in order to survive. To achieve this, it has to know its enemy very well. Some species of moth are advantageous on this. Because they are capable of hearing and distinguishing the high frequency sounds, emitted by their greatest enemies, the bats.

2008-08-12 22:09:46

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