The seasonal sound of tymbals

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Participant in the natural song competition

It is that time of year again. While I am writing this, the amazing sound of the cicada swells to a deafening crescendo, stops abruptly, only to be repeated a while later. They are a little early, this year. Last year I posted a picture of a recently molted individual on September 29th (click here for the post). This year, I have been treated to their concerts for over 3 weeks already.
The sound, which is powerful but quite difficult to trace, is produced by plates, called tymbals, on the sides of the abdomen of the insect. The tymbals have a complex ridged shape and are attached to strong muscles. The muscles flex the plates, and then let go, producing a click-clack sound not unlike the toys some of you might remember from your childhood. This process is repeated in a rapid succession, producing the familiar female attracting song. In order to get noticed as much as possible by discriminating females, the male extends its hollow abdomen to act as a sound amplifier. The video below shows this beautifully.
Although these competing males are difficult to spot, look for them in high spots, on the top branches of trees. There they advertise their strength through sound, with one goal: be responsible for a next generation which will be as powerful as they are, preferably more!


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