Auditory sensitivity of Hawaiian moths (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae) and selective predation by the Hawaiian hoary bat (Chiroptera: Lasiurus cinereous semotus)

Fullard, J.H. (2001) Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series B: Biological Sciences, 268, 1375–1380. Full text


The islands of Hawai'i offer a unique opportunity for studying the auditory ecology of moths and bats since this habitat has a single species of bat, the Hawaiian hoary bat (Lasiurus cinereus semotus), which exerts the entire predatory selection pressure on the ears of sympatric moths. I compared the moth wings discarded by foraging bats with the number of surviving moths on the island of Kaua'i and concluded that the endemic noctuid Haliophyle euclidias is more heavily preyed upon than similar-sized endemic (e.g. Agrotis diplosticta) and adventive (Agrotis ipsilon and Pseudaletia unipuncta) species. Electrophysiological examinations indicated that, compared with species less preyed upon, H. euclidias has lower auditory sensitivities to the bat's social and echolocation calls, which will result in shorter detection distances of the bat. The poor ears of H. euclidias suggest that this moth coevolved with the bat using non-auditory defences that resulted in auditory degeneration. This moth now suffers higher predation because it is drawn away from its normal habitat by the man-made lights that are exploited by the bat.