• insect hearing;
  • Cicindela;
  • evolution;
  • phylogeny;
  • defensive behaviour


This study examines the behavioural responses to ultrasound in 52 species from the family Cicindelidae using both tethered flight and non-flight assays. Tethered flying tiger beetles respond to trains of bat-like ultrasonic pulses with a short-latency, multi-component behaviour. There was no variation in the nature of the behavioural responses regardless of geographical distribution or phylogenetic position. Lowest mean behavioural thresholds lie predominantly between 30 and 45 kHz. Sensitivity, however, varies widely, and several species do not respond at all in these assays. The lowest thresholds for responders are most often between 70 and 80 dB SPL. Almost all subgenera of North American tiger beetles in the genus Cicindela have at least some species with low-threshold acoustic behaviour. The single exception is the large subgenus Cicindela where all species are completely unresponsive or have very high thresholds. There was little relationship between habitat and responsiveness to ultrasound, but there is a strong correlation with seasonal activity – species with adults active in the spring and autumn (all in the subgenus Cicindela) do not show ultrasound-triggered behaviour whereas summer-active species generally do. Superimposing these data on a current phylogeny of the North American tiger beetles suggests that acoustic behaviour (and hearing) is a shared primitive trait among the taxa examined here and that there have been at least five independent losses of this character.