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Luna Moths’ Sonar Scramblers

6-26-17 luna moth 001Luna Moths, Actias luna, are known for their hindwings’ beautiful, long, green tails. These tails are not simply decorative, nor is their primary function to attract a mate (pheromones do that). A recent study found that Big Brown Bats have an easier time catching Luna Moths that have lost their tails. Further research revealed that Luna Moths defend themselves from voracious bats patrolling the night air by spinning the tips of their two wing tails in circles. The twisting tails of the moth act like a sonar shield, interfering with the bat’s means of locating them – echolocation. In contrast with the stronger, ever-changing echoes coming off of the moths’ large flapping wings, the twisted shape of the tails create a persistent weak echo signal. According to researchers, this could make the insects trickier to catch, and harder to track as they fly.

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8 responses

  1. Alice Pratt

    Nature never ceases to amaze. (Neither do children…which I told my daughter a few days ago about her 2 3/4 year old)

    June 26, 2017 at 7:17 am

  2. Wow. And we humans think we are so special… Mostly just smart enough to copy nature – and then not respect it. Not very smart after all. 😦

    June 26, 2017 at 8:37 am

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  4. Alan Keitt

    Neat post Mary
    I was surprised to find that early blind humans can echolocate using tongue clicking. And that lunar moths are probably listiening to the bat signals as they are modulating them with their wonderful tail fronds. I once saw a lunar moth light on my bright dining room window one dark night only to be snatched by a barred owl. I can only guess at the complexity of the waves forms, audio and visual, going back and forth in that instant. BTW, Donald Griffin who discovered bat echolocation right after WW 2 was my freshman biology professor at Harvard- have been fascinated ever since.

    June 26, 2017 at 10:55 am

  5. Sally

    I love Luna moths. Thanks for the fascinating spinning tail info.

    June 26, 2017 at 11:39 am

  6. Jean Harrison

    Fascinating! I love Luna moths and bats. I knew about evasive and sonar-confusing sounds from other moths but not about the Luna’s spinning tails.

    June 26, 2017 at 2:39 pm

  7. judilindsey


    That is a super cool fact! I have a photo of 2 luna moths mating – one of my favorite shots.

    Judi 🙂


    June 26, 2017 at 6:22 pm

  8. This design is steller! You most certainly know how to keep a reader amused.
    Between your wit and your videos, I was almost moved to start my own blog (well, almost…HaHa!) Fantastic job.
    I really loved what you had to say, and more than that,
    how you presented it. Too cool!

    July 7, 2017 at 4:37 am

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