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Cicada on a tree

Male of the genus Karenia uses the front edge of his forewing to make a clicking sound.

So-called mute cicadas are not so silent

"Mute" cicadas lack the structures other cicadas used to kick up a racket, but they're hardly silent. Researchers from UC Davis and China's Northwest A&F University, writing in the journal PLOS One, show that the male Karenia cicada has an alternative way to make noise: banging the leading edge of the forewing against the operculum, a hard lid covering the insect’s equivalent of an ear. This makes a clicking sound.

So, while Karenia makes a sound like a beating drum, other cicada species with tymbal mechanisms play an orchestra of diverse and loud sounds.

The newly discovered sound-production mechanism expands our knowledge on the diversity of acoustic signaling behavior in cicadas, says coauthor Christan Nansen, an agricultural economist in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.

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