Tuning the drum: the mechanical basis for frequency discrimination in a Mediterranean cicada.
Female cicadas use sound when they select a mate from a chorus of singing males. The cicada has a tympanal ear; and the tympanal membrane, and constituent tympanal ridge, act as both acousto-mechanical transducers and frequency filters. The tympanal ridge is physically connected to a large number of mechanoreceptor neurons via a cuticular extension known as the tympanal apodeme. Using microscanning laser Doppler vibrometry, we measured for the first time the in vivo vibrations of the apodeme of female Cicadatra atra in response to the motion of the tympanum driven by sound. These measurements reveal that the nanoscale motion of the tympanal membrane is over a magnitude greater than that of the apodeme. Furthermore, the apodeme acts as an additional mechanical frequency filter, enhancing that of the tympanal ridge, narrowing the frequency band of vibration at the mechanoreceptor neurons to that of the male calling song. This study enhances our understanding of the mechanical link between the external ear of the cicada and its sensory cells.