Prevailing dogma is that…to hear in the far field, an animal needs an eardrum that registers changes in pressure. It would then follow that insects such as the mosquito could not hear over any distance because their hearing happens through detecting particle velocity via antennae. That is right. Mosquitos and other insects hear when the movement of air particles moves their antenna, firing neurons connected to the root of the antennae.
A recent report in Current Biology reports that this is indeed a myth. Experiments on the mosquito species Aedes aegypti show with much certainty that these insects can hear from as far as 10 meters. Not only is far-field hearing very much a reality for these insects, the frequency range of their hearing matches rather well with that of the human voice. Direct recordings from the neuron under the mosquito’s antenna were used to document this sensitivity and frequency range. These findings are likely to further engineering innovations leading to a new kind of microphone that does not have to depend on a pressure sensing diaphragm.
In the meantime, if you do not like mosquito bites, shut up because they can hear you.
Menda G, Eyal I. Nitzany P, Shamble A, Harrington L, Miles R, Hoy R. (2019) The Long and Short of Hearing in the Mosquito Aedes aegypti. Current Biology. February 7.
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