From Xplor for Kids
August 2013 Issue

Wild Jobs: Katydid Wrangler Rhett Hartman

Publish Date

Aug 01, 2013

Q: Why do katydids sing?

A: Katydids are green, they’re shaped like leaves, and they’re active at night — they’re basically invisible. That’s great for avoiding predators, but it makes it tough to find mates. Males sing so females can find them.

Q: What do their songs sound like?

A: Some katydids sound like a gushing faucet. Others sound like a sprinkler: pssst ... pssst ... pssst. Males make sound by rubbing their wings together.

Q: What do you hope to learn about katydids?

A: Lots of males sing at the same time. I want to know what signals go into a female’s brain to make her choose one male’s song instead of another’s.

Q: How can you tell what goes into a female’s brain?

A: Katydids hear the same way we do. Sound goes into their ears. It’s converted to electricity. The electricity travels through nerves to their brain. I put wires on katydids so I can graph the electrical signals as they move through their nerves.

Q: What does the graph look like?

A: We make lots of graphs, but one looks like squiggly lines. You can learn a lot from those squiggles, though.

Q: Like what?

A: I learned that with one kind of katydid, a female’s nerves filter out some signals before they ever reach her brain. These signals come from males who sing a fraction of a second after other males. But if the signal never reaches her brain, then she never actually “hears” the late singers. So, the late singers may not get many girlfriends.

Also in this issue

You Discover

With summer winding down and autumn gearing up, there’s plenty to discover outside in August and September.

Predator vs. Prey: Roadrunner vs. Collared Lizard

The struggle to survive isn't always a fair fight. Here's what separates nature's winners from its losers.

How To: Read a River

Floating an Ozark stream is tons of fun, but tipping your canoe can be a drag.

Jaws of Life

Birds use beaks to weave nests, groom feathers, fight attackers, and capture food. With so many uses, it isn’t surprising that beaks come in all shapes and sizes.

Shadow Cats

Although they’re common throughout Missouri, bobcats dwell in the shadows, all but invisible to most people.

Strange But True

Your guide to all the unusual, unique, and unbelievable stuff that goes on in nature.

This Issue's Staff:

David Besenger
Les Fortenberry
Karen Hudson
Regina Knauer
Noppadol Paothong
Marci Porter
Mark Raithel
Laura Scheuler
Matt Seek
Tim Smith
David Stonner
Nichole LeClair Terrill
Stephanie Thurber
Cliff White

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