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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