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PRI's Environmental News Magazine

Animal Note

Air Date: Week of May 18, 2001

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Transcript

CURWOOD: Coming up: The passion and the papilla, the mysterious allure of the orchid. First, this page from the animal notebook with Maggie Villiger.

(Music up and under: Marvin Pontiac, "In A Big Car")

VILLIGER: Don't pity the spiny lobsters. Sure, they don't have the oversized claws of their Maine cousins, but their sharp spines and long whiplike antennae are plenty impressive. And if the spiny lobster's harsh looks aren't enough to scare away a predator, this crustacean has another trick up his antenna. Like a virtuoso violinist, he draws his antenna like a bow across a smooth plate under his eyes, and out comes a loud series of sound pulses aimed at distracting a predator.

(Sound pulses)

VILLIGER: Okay, so virtuoso might be a bit of a stretch, but the principle is the say. Other arthropods like crickets make noise by bumping a hard pick along a grooved surface that's analogous to a washboard. But spiny lobsters rub soft tissue across a smooth surface. It's the friction between the two surfaces that makes the noise, just like if you run your finger over a balloon. And researchers think this mode of making noise has a distinct advantage. Spiny lobsters are most at risk of becoming a predator's snack when they molt and temporarily shed their tough other shell. But since their noisemaking technique works even under these conditions, it may just buy them enough time to escape from a startled predator.

(Sound pulses)

VILLIGER: That's this week's animal note. I'm Maggie Villiger.

 

 

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