Energy localization and frequency analysis in the locust ear

Robert Malkin, Thomas R. McDonagh, Natasha Mhatre, Thomas S. Scott, Daniel Robert


Animal ears are exquisitely adapted to capture sound energy and perform signal analysis. Studying the ear of the locust, we show how frequency signal analysis can be performed solely by using the structural features of the tympanum. Incident sound waves generate mechanical vibrational waves that travel across the tympanum. These waves shoal in a tsunami-like fashion, resulting in energy localization that focuses vibrations onto the mechanosensory neurons in a frequency-dependent manner. Using finite element analysis, we demonstrate that two mechanical properties of the locust tympanum, distributed thickness and tension, are necessary and sufficient to generate frequency-dependent energy localization.

  • Received September 20, 2013.
  • Accepted October 14, 2013.
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