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This chapter is from the book

Body tunes

Those chirps you hear are usually gentlemen crickets serenading the lady crickets. Males use a loud, monotonous sound to attract a female, and a quick, quieter chirp to court a female nearby. Male crickets also chirp to defend their territory against other male crickets.

Crickets make sound through stridulation, rubbing one body part against another. They rub a sharp-edged ridge (the scraper) on the outer edge of one wing against a series of sawlike teeth (the file) on the other wing. As when a bow is pulled across the strings of a violin, the scraper dragging across the file sets up a vibration. The vibration is amplified as it resonates on the wing membrane.

Each species of cricket has its own song, but the song also varies within a population. A male's song is revealing. Larger males have a song with a lower carrier frequency, or pitch. Females seem to be able to determine the relative size of a male cricket from his song because they find lower pitch songs more attractive.

Temperature affects crickets' chirp rates. The Old Farmer's Almanac provides a formula to convert the chirp rate to temperature. To get the temperature in Fahrenheit, count the number of chirps in 14 seconds and add 40. It may not be as accurate as a thermometer, but if the crickets stop chirping, grab a jacket.

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