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Picture of the Day

Moths with larger hindwings and longer tails are best at deflecting bats

Each night, dramatic aerial battles are waged above our heads, complete with barrel rolls, razor-sharp turns, sonar jamming, cloaking devices and life-or-death consequences. But the opponents aren't tricked-out fighter jets. They're bats and moths, adversaries locked in a 60-million-year-old duel marked by stealth and deception. Previously, researchers showed that some silk moths in the family Saturniidae have a built-in bat decoy: hindwings with long, elaborate "tails" that deflect sonar, creating a misleading target. As bats swoop in for the kill, they often strike these expendable tails and not the moth's vital body core. Now, a new study by the team illuminates the bat-driven evolution of these decoys across the silk moth family tree and tests four hindwing shapes in real-time dogfights between bats and moths. The verdict: The larger the hindwings and longer the tails, the better the moths' chances of escaping bats on the hunt.

Visit Website | Image credit: The Kawahara Lab, The McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity/University of Florida