Indexed on: 07 Nov '15Published on: 07 Nov '15Published in: Royal Society open science
A primary task of auditory systems is the localization of sound sources in space. Sound source localization in azimuth is usually based on temporal or intensity differences of sounds between the bilaterally arranged ears. In mammals, localization in elevation is possible by transfer functions at the ear, especially the pinnae. Although insects are able to locate sound sources, little attention is given to the mechanisms of acoustic orientation to elevated positions. Here we comparatively analyse the peripheral hearing thresholds of three species of bushcrickets in respect to sound source positions in space. The hearing thresholds across frequencies depend on the location of a sound source in the three-dimensional hearing space in front of the animal. Thresholds differ for different azimuthal positions and for different positions in elevation. This position-dependent frequency tuning is species specific. Largest differences in thresholds between positions are found in Ancylecha fenestrata. Correspondingly, A. fenestrata has a rather complex ear morphology including cuticular folds covering the anterior tympanal membrane. The position-dependent tuning might contribute to sound source localization in the habitats. Acoustic orientation might be a selective factor for the evolution of morphological structures at the bushcricket ear and, speculatively, even for frequency fractioning in the ear.