Auditory characteristics and sexual dimorphism in the gypsy moth


Department of Zoology and Erindale College, University of Toronto, Mississauga, Ontario, Canada L5L 1C6.


ABSTRACT. The auditory characteristics of two populations (laboratory reared and wild) of North American gypsy moths (Lymantriidae: Lymantria dispar L.) were sampled and the neurally derived thresholds of wild males and females to frequencies from 5 to 150 kHz compared. The noctuoid auditory receptors, Al and A2-cell, and putative proprioceptor, B-cell, were identified. Both sexes possess neurally responsive ears but females exhibit median best frequencies significantly lower than those of males. Audiogram comparisons reveal significantly different thresholds at 5–15 kHz, 30–120 kHz and 130–140 kHz, with females less sensitive to all but the lowest frequencies. Wild male populations reveal less audiogram variability than laboratory-reared individuals, while females' tuning curves appear more similar. The high variability present in colony moths warrants caution in the use of laboratory-reared insects for studies that assume natural levels of selection pressure. We suggest that male L. dispar possess adaptively functional ears tuned to the frequencies in the echo-location signals of bats but that the flightless females of this species are not exposed to bat predation and therefore possess ears in a state of evolutionary degeneration.