1. Dried cicada bodies of the species Cyclochila australasiae and model cicadas made from a miniature earphone driving a plastic cavity were used to study the acoustics of sound production in male cicadas. 2. A model cicada with shape and dimensions similar to those of the abdomen of a male C. australasiae resonates at the natural song frequency of the species (4.3 kHz). The abdominal air sac of C. australasiae also resonates at frequencies close to the natural song frequency when excited by external sounds. In an atmosphere of chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) gas, the resonant frequency is lowered in keeping with the decrease in velocity of sound in the CFC gas. 3. At the model's resonant frequency, the driving earphone dissipates more electrical power with the cavity attached than without the cavity. The cavity of the model cicada acts as a narrow-band acoustic acceptance filter, tuned to the natural song frequency. 4. When the miniature earphone emits brief clicks, mimicking those produced by the natural tymbal mechanism, the model cicada produces sound pulses that vary in duration and shape according to the number and timing of the clicks. A coherent train of two or three resonant clicks results in a long slowly-decaying sound pulse similar to that in the natural song. 5. The natural song frequency can be predicted from the dimensions of the abdominal cavity and the tympana in C. australasiae using a simple equation for the resonant frequency of a Helmholtz resonator. This equation also predicts the song frequency of Macrotristria angularis and Magicicada cassini, but it fails with the low-frequency song of Magicicada septendecim. This discrepancy can be accounted for by the unusually thick tympana of M. septendecim, which tend to lower the resonant frequency of the system. 6. We conclude that the abdomen of male cicadas forms a Helmholtz resonator, the components of which are the large air sac as the cavity and the tympana as the neck of the resonator. We suggest that cicada sound production depends on the coupling of two resonators, that of the tymbal and that of the abdominal air sac, from which sound is radiated through the tympana. The coupled resonator system would produce the long sound pulses required for stimulating a sensitive sharply tuned auditory organ.
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JOURNAL ARTICLE| 01 December 1992
A MODEL OF THE MECHANISM OF SOUND PRODUCTION IN CICADAS
H. C. Bennet-Clark
Online Issn: 1477-9145
Print Issn: 0022-0949
© 1992 The Company of Biologists Limited
J Exp Biol (1992) 173 (1): 123–153.
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H. C. Bennet-Clark, D. Young; A MODEL OF THE MECHANISM OF SOUND PRODUCTION IN CICADAS. J Exp Biol 1 December 1992; 173 (1): 123–153. doi: https://doi.org/10.1242/jeb.173.1.123
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