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April 15, 2017

How do cicadas make sounds / noise

Filed under: Sounds — Dan @ 2:09 pm

Some people hear a cicada sing, and hear a beautiful song, while othes hear an irritating noise. But how do they create the sounds?

Magicicada septendecim tymbal
The ridged organ in this photo is a tymbal, the organ male cicadas use to create their songs.

Cicadas make sounds in quite a few aways: with tymbal organs, wing flicks, wing clicks, and stridulations.

Male cicadas sing using their tymbals

tymbal animation
Muscles tug at it rapidly to create sound vibrations.

Cicadas are best known for the songs the male cicadas sing. They sing using special organs called tymbals. Tymbals are membranes that vibrate very quickly when pulled by tiny muscles. This vibration creates the cicada’s song. Some types of cicadas have exposed tymbals, like Magicicada or Zammara. Some species have hidden tymbals, like Neotibicen, and flex their abdomen to open their tymbal covers to modulate their song.

Each type of song made with tymbals has a different purpose:

  • Alarm/distress calls: “don’t eat me! something is eating me!”
  • Pre-calls: warming up
  • Calls to attract mates and establish a territory
  • Courting calls: calls made once a mate is found.
  • Choruses: when males synchronize their calls to establish chorusing centers and attract females.

Wing flicks and stridulations

Females and males of some species flick their wings to produce a sound similar to the flick of a wall switch. Females use wing flicks to respond to male courting calls, in the case of Magicicada periodical cicadas. Some males of other species use a combination of tymbal song and wing flicks.

Some species of cicadas lack tymbals, like cicadas belonging to the genus Platypedia. They use their wings to make crackling or popping noises known as crepitation. Amphipsalta zelandica of New Zealand use wing-clicks to communicate.

Stridulations: Some cicadas, like Australia’s Green Grocer, possess raspe-like parts of their bodies which when stroked with part of a wing produces yet another type of cicada sound. This type of sound is called a stridulation.

Cyclochila australasiae stridulatory structures

Tettigarcta vibrate the earth

Lastly, some species like those belonging to the genus Tettigarcta vibrate the substrate (soil, plant matter, etc) they live in, rather than vibrating the air.

Which cicada is the loudest?

Filed under: Sounds — Dan @ 1:52 pm

“What is the loudest cicada” or “what is the loudest insect”, you might ask.

Double Drummer (Thopha saccata)
Double Drummer (Thopha saccata), a cicada found in Australia, can reach 120db at close range. Photo by Kevin Lee.

  • The “official” loudest cicada in the world is the Brevisana brevis, a cicada found in Africa. At a distance of 50cm (~20″) B. brevis reaches 106.7 decibels. See the BBC article.
  • Australian species of cicadas, like the Double Drummer (Thopa saccata) are said to exceed 120 deafening decibels at close range.
  • According to the University of Florida Book of Insect Records, the Neotibicen pronotalis [aka walkeri] is the loudest cicada in North America, and can achieve 108.9 decibels.
  • Personally, I’ve observed Magicicada cassini choruses achieve between 85 & 86 decibels (link to video), and M. cassini responding to fingersnaps (mimics female wing flicks) at as high as 116 db (link to video) 35s in). The 116db level was recorded with the insect standing on the microphone of my Extech 407730. Magicicada choruses have been documented to reach 100 dB.

People use a variety of criteria to judge the loudness of cicadas. Brevisana brevis is the current official record holder. We should use the distance, equipment, calibrations and weather conditions used for that measurement for all cicadas.

One of the reasons why people want to know how loud cicadas can get is fear of hearing loss. Looking at the CDC website, a Magicicada chorus falls in the range of a noisy cafeteria — which doesn’t appear to be harmful in the short term. A cicada applied directly to the ear (do not do that) gets in the range of a loud rock concert and ambulance siren, which will cause hearing damage. Again, do not put cicadas in or around your ears.

Yes. Male cicadas use their opercula (flaps on their abdomen) to cover their tympana (the cicadas hearing organs) when they sing, so they don’t damage their own hearing. Cicadas — male and female — listen with their tympana.

March 25, 2017

New Cicada: Berberigetta dimelodica

Filed under: Berberigetta,Vera L. Nunes,Video — Tags: — Dan @ 10:24 am

Thanks to Vera L. Nunes for letting us know about a newly described/discovered cicada named Berberigetta dimelodica.

Berberigetta is also a new genus, belonging to the Tribe Cicadettini.

See and listen to it in this YouTube video:

The paper than describes the species is:

Gonçalo João Costa, Vera L. Nunes, Eduardo Marabuto, Raquel Mendes, Telma G. Laurentino, José Alberto Quartau, Octávio S. Paulo, Paula Cristina Simões. 2017. Morphology, songs and genetics identify two new cicada species from Morocco: Tettigettalna afroamissa sp. nov. and Berberigetta dimelodica gen. nov. & sp. nov. (Hemiptera: Cicadettini). Zootaxa. Vol 4237, No 3.

Link to the Zootaxa page for the document.

And here’s a quote of the Abstract:

Morocco has been the subject of very few expeditions on the last century with the objective of studying small cicadas. In the summer of 2014 an expedition was carried out to Morocco to update our knowledge with acoustic recordings and genetic data of these poorly known species. We describe here two new small-sized cicadas that could not be directly assigned to any species of North African cicadas: Tettigettalna afroamissa sp. nov. and Berberigetta dimelodica gen. nov. & sp. nov. In respect to T. afroamissa it is the first species of the genus to be found outside Europe and we frame this taxon within the evolutionary history of the genus. Acoustic analysis of this species allows us to confidently separate T. afroamissa from its congeners. With B. dimelodica, a small species showing a remarkable calling song characterized by an abrupt frequency modulation, a new genus had to be erected. Bayesian inference and maximum likelihood phylogenetic analyses with DNA-barcode sequences of Cytochrome C Oxidase 1 support the monophyly of both species, their distinctness and revealed genetic structure within B. dimelodica. Alongside the descriptions we also provide GPS coordinates of collection points, distributions and habitat preferences.

March 2, 2017

Quesada gigas out in Texas

Filed under: Mike Quinn,Quesada — Dan @ 8:05 pm

Update: Mike’s website Giant Cicada / Chicharra Grande has records of the early calling. 3 to 4 months early!

Mike Quinn, @EntoMike on Twitter, reported on February 22nd that Quesada gigas have been singing in Texas.

Listen to their song:

Song type: Call

Download

Source: ©Insect Singers | Species: Q. gigas

Quesada gigas (Olivier, 1790)
Photo credit: Photo by Leonardo Milhomem

More information about Quesada gigas.

February 26, 2017

Quick guide to recent cicada name changes

Filed under: Genera — Dan @ 8:31 am

The names of cicadas change a lot. I don’t question the name changes, but it does take a fair amount of time to update 100s-1000s of pages on this site whenever a genus or species name changes, or when a species is split into multiple species, or a genus is split into multiple genera. There are likely places on this site where the names are a generation or two behind.

Here’s a guide to changes from the past two decades. It is far from complete, but it represents the more well-known cicadas.

Genus changes

Auritibicen spawned from Tibicen/Lyristes. These cicadas include:

Twelve Auritibicen bihamatus subspecies, five Auritibicen flammatus subspecies, Auritibicen intermedius Mori, 1931, ten Auritibicen japonicus subspecies, Auritibicen kyushyuensis (Kato, 1926), Auritibicen pekinensis (Haupt, 1924), and Auritibicen slocumi Chen, 1943.

Read: Young June Lee. 2015. Description of a new genus, Auritibicen gen. nov., of Cryptotympanini (Hemiptera: Cicadidae) with redescriptions of Auritibicen pekinensis (Haupt, 1924) comb. nov. and Auritibicen slocumi (Chen, 1943) comb. nov. from China and a key to the species of Auritibicen. Zootaxa 3980 (2): 241–254.

Callogaena spawned from Gaeana Amyot & Audinet-Serville, 1843. Although Gaeana might still be preferred. Here is a Callogaeana festiva.

Distantalna Boulard, 2009 spawned from Tosena Amyot & Audinet-Serville, 1843. Here is a Distantalna splendida. This cicada is very common on eBay and found in a lot of arts and crafts, and is still mostly called Tosena splendida in those places.

See the image below: Distantalna clearly lacks the angular forewing stripes of Tosena. The orientation of the eyes seems very different as well.

Compare

Lyristes. Depending on what area of the world you’re in, the genus Tibicen is often replaced with Lyristes. Prior to the introduction of Auritibicen in 2015 the Tibicen of Asia were called Lyristes. The Tibicen of Europe are called Lyristes as well, like Lyristes plebejus (Scopoli, 1763). The genera of North American Tibicen have all changed as well. I’m not up on the debate but I believe Michel Boulard is advocating for Lyristes. I think the argument against the name was that Latreille came up with Tibicen in 1925, and Horváth came up with Lyristes a century later in 1926. So if you see Lyristes, consider it to be a synonym of Tibicen, Auritibicen, Hadoa, Neotibicen, Megatibicen, etc.

Megapomponia Boulard, 2005 spawned from Pomponia Stål, 1866. Here is a Megapomponia imperatoria. Megapomponia are the largest cicadas so MEGA (from the Greek megas which means “great, large, mighty”) makes sense.

Neotibicen Hill & Moulds, 2015 and Hadoa Moulds 2015 spawned from Tibicen.

Read: Hill, et al. 2015. Molecular phylogenetics, diversification, and systematics of Tibicen Latreille 1825 and allied cicadas of the tribe Cryptotympanini, with three new genera and emphasis on species from the USA and Canada (Hemiptera: Auchenorrhyncha: Cicadidae), Zootaxa, Volume 3985, Issue 2, Pages 219–251.

Megatibicen Sanborn and Heath 2016 spawned from Neotibicen, which of course spawned from Tibicen.

Read: Sanborn A.F., Heath, M.S. 2016. Megatibicen n. gen., a new North American cicada genus (Hemiptera: Cicadidae: Cicadinae: Cryptotympanini), Zootaxa, Volume 4168, Issue 3.

Gigatibicen Lee 2016, Ameritibicen Lee 2016, and Paratibicen Lee 2016 spawned from Neotibicen, although it seems like Megatibicen will be preferred over Gigatibicen and Ameritibicen. Lee, Y.J. 2016. Description of three new genera, Paratibicen, Gigatibicen, and Ameritibicen, of Cryptotympanini (Hemiptera: Cicadidae) and a key to their species Journal of Asia-Pacific Biodiversity, Volume 9, Issue 4, 1 December 2016, Pages 448–454.

Here’s a pretty good chart that explains the Tibicen/ Neotibicen/ Megatibicen/ Gigatibicen/ Ameritibicen/ Paratibicen stuff.

Species changes

Magicicada neotredecim Marshall and Cooley 2000 spawned from Magicicada tredecim (Walsh and Riley, 1868) in 2000 when David Marshall and John Cooley described it as its own unique species. Read: Marshall, D.C. & Cooley, J.R. (2000). Reproductive character displacement and speciation in periodical cicadas, with a description of a new species, 13-year Magicicada neotre- decim. — Evolution 54, p. 1313-1325.

Neotibicen tibicen australis (Davis, 1912) was once Tibicen tibicen australis (Davis, 1912) when Neotibicen (genus) spawned from Tibicen in 2015. Prior to the change, this cicada was Tibicen chloromerus var. australis. Read: Tibicen tibicen australis Sanborn, Phillips and Gillis 2008: 4–5, 12, 31, 39, Fig 73, Figs 139–147 (key, synonymy, illustrated, distribution, comp. note) Equals Rihana sayi var. australis Florida, Georgia

Neotibicen tibicen tibicen (Linnaeus, 1758) was called Tibicen chloromera, but then Allen Sanborn (I think) switched it to Tibicen chloromerus (a to an us for correct gender grammar of the species name) in the late 1990s. Then around 2008 Sanborn switched it to Tibicen tibicen because the original name dating back to 1758 was Cicada tibicen.

Megatibicen pronotalis pronotalis Davis, 1938 and Megatibicen pronotalis walkeri Metcalf, 1955 have had a number of changes. Aside from two to three recent changes genus changes, species names have changed as well. Megatibicen pronotalis pronotalis has been called Tibicen walkeri var. pronotalis, Tibicen marginalis var. pronotalis, Tibicen pronotalis walkeri and Tibicen walkeri pronotalis. Megatibicen pronotalis walkeri has been called Tibicen marginalis, Tibicen walkeri, and even Lyristes marginalis. Yikes!

That’s a lot of changes. I used Allan Sanborn’s book Catalogue of the Cicadoidea to verify much of this information. It’s a huge book. No photos, mostly cicada names. :)

Editorial: I know a lot of folks are bemused and vexed by these name changes, and many still use the old names. Certainly Tibicen chloromera, regardless of its taxonomic faults, sounds better than Neotibicen tibicen tibicen. Of the changes described above, my favorites (can you have favorites in science?) are Magicicada neotredecim Marshall and Cooley 2000 which is definitely a different insect than Magicicada tredecim (Walsh and Riley, 1868); and Distantalna Boulard, 2009 because Distantalna splendida looks very different than cicadas belonging to the genus Tosena, IMHO.

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