Long-lost insect’s digitally recreated song may be key to its rediscovery

The P. obscura only specimen is housed to London Natural History Museum (Credit: www.nhm.ac.uk)

The Prophalangopsis obscura (P. obscura) is one of the remaining eight descent of one ancient katydidae family of over 90 known species that lived during the Jurassic period (199.6 million to 145.5 million years ago). However, there is only one known specimen of the grasshopper-like insect. It was discovered in India in the mid-1800s and later donated to the Natural History Museum in London. Scientists have now digitally recreated the P. obscura long lost call in hopes of locating insects in the wild.

“Although we are dealing with only one specimen, it is one of the few species who survives from a group of relatives of grasshoppers and crickets who dominated during the Jurassic,” said study co-author Ed Baker, a bioacoustics researcher at the Natural History Museum in London.

Like their cricket relatives, katydids rub their wings or legs together to make sounds that attract mates. To imitate this, Baker and his team scanned the wings of the specimen in the museum and created a 3D image of their surface structure. They then calculated the resonant frequency of the wings – the natural frequency frequency where a substance vibrates at the top amplitude.

The resulting song is a 4.7 kilohertz bass tone, which can be heard over long distances. Although it is great for attracting friends, it also attracts the attention of predators, specifically bats. The scientists, who published their findings in the journal PLOS ONE August 10, 2022 Believe Song Provides Valuable Clues To Where He Stays P. obscura specimens can hide.

“Comparing this species to modern relatives is interesting because it has large wings, suggesting it is capable of long flight, and sings a deep song that travels long distances,” Barker explained. “With his habit of living in the open air, these Features should make it an ideal target for bats as it is easier to detect. Its survival from the Jurassic suggests that it currently lives in a environment without bats that feed on free-flying insects.”

An artist’s interpretation of what P. obscura might look like real life (Credit: Charlie Woodrow/ CC BY 4.0/Wikimedia Commons)

The team theorizes that Jurassic-era insects most likely live in regions of northern India and Tibet, which are too cold for bats. They believe the digitally created song will help scientists easily identify insect calls and hopefully lead to the rediscovery of the elusive species.

Resources: NewAtlas.com, Phys.org, Natural History Museum