Fossilized cricket song brought to life in a work of art

eudenbach_jurassicwebThe height of the Jurassic period, some 165 million years ago, was the golden age of massive plant-eating dinosaurs. Other animals—such as small mammals and birds—also darted through conifer forests, which themselves were relatively new on the arboreal scene. But a study published four years ago in PNAS adds a new dimension to our knowledge about the fauna of that time: a sliver of soundscape.

The PNAS paper describes the fossilized wing of a male bush cricket, or katydid, Archaboilus musicus, found by Chinese paleontologists in Inner Mongolia. Crickets and katydids make their characteristic trill by rubbing the serrated vein of one wing, called a file, against the so-called scraper on the other wing, and the veins of both wings were remarkably well-preserved in the fossil. By creating mathematical models based on high-resolution images of these structures, Fernando Montealegre-Z, an entomologist then at the University of Bristol, United Kingdom, recreated the sounds that these insects likely made.

[Read the story at PNAS Front Matter // August 30, 2016]