Jurassic Crickets' Mating Call Recreated From Detailed Fossil

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Feb. 7 2012 2:25 PM

Jurassic Crickets' Mating Call Recreated From Detailed Fossil

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(Two fighting crickets prepare to do battle at a street market in Hefei, in east China's Anhui province on September 19, 2009.)

Photo by AFP/AFP/Getty Images

It's a song 165 million years in the making, played on the world’s smallest violin.

Scientists have recreated the chirps of a cricket that was last heard 165 million years ago. Working from an incredibly complete fossil, the team was able to reconstruct the sound based on the cricket's wings, where one is dragged against the other in a scissor-like motion, which they described as similar to playing a tiny stringed instrument.

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By comparing the size and shape of its comb-like instruments to living cricket species, they were able to discern the frequency of its musical tone, which they discovered was relatively low-pitched when compared to modern bush crickets.

Professor Mike Ritchie from the University of St. Andrews told BBC Nature, "People thought singing in crickets probably evolved later from a startle reflex, but this suggests that [very early on] they were already ... producing these lovely, pure tones to compete for a mate."

Serenading your love interest: it’s even more of a classic than we thought.

Ben Johnson is the producer of Marketplace Tech from American Public Media.

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