New advances in hearing aids and medical imaging may be possible thanks to a tiny insect from the South American jungle, according to a study released Thursday. The South American bush cricket, also called the katydid, has some of the smallest ears of any creature on the planet.
Mammalian ears use a three-part process – the eardrum collects the sound, the middle ear converts it from air-borne noise into liquid-borne vibrations, and a structure called the cochlea analyses the frequency.
It had been well-known that the crickets had eardrum-like apparatuses on their two forelegs. But scientists were unclear as to how these tympana connected with each other and with the sensory receptors to allow the cricket to actually hear.
In the new study, published in the November 16 issue of the US journal "Science," researchers reveal the discovery of a microscopic organ that acts as a "middle ear" for the crickets.
The cricket version "relies on a system of mechanical levers, a sort of microscopic see-saw formed by its eardrum that makes the link to the inner ear," the researchers explained in a statement.
"We now have to learn how to make one like this," Said Daniel Robert, one of the study’s lead authors.AFP