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Clever Cricket
Tuesday, 22 April 2014 11:34

The cricket, a small insect that usually makes a sound to break the silence and in doing so can make things seem more awkward than before. This is just one of the many things that come to mind when thinking of a cricket, but for those who care to listen will know that there is way more that this tiny winged insect is capable of. Crickets are well known for piercing the stillness of a baking day with its shrill vibration or heralds the evening in sharp chirps – one of the most familiar songs of Africa. Did you know that if you know how to decode their song, these very cheerful chirpers will tell you the time and temperature? Not only that, but these little insects hold the ability to apply state-of-the-art principles for an amplifier. These tiny songsters are accurate temperature indicators and they can indicate when it is hot and when it is cold. Unfortunately any old pitch will not do you need to rub the finely toothed vein on the cricket’s right forewing. It will produce a crystal-clear-chirp also known as a mating vibration to the female of this species. The discovery of a relationship between the temperature and the sex call of the cricket is not a new concept as a book called ‘Thermometer Cricket’ was published by A.E. Dolbear more than a hundred years ago. He established that the air temperature could be gauged by the chirp rate of an American tree cricket. The reason why the American tree cricket would be more accurate is because it chirps from a more elevated position, from a tree, which mirrors the surrounding temperature and is much better than a concealed patch of grass, a burrow or a sheltered nook containing reflected heat. The best African thermometer cricket would be the tree cricket, the Oecanthus karschi and the Cape cricket, Oecanthus capensis. The Oecanthus karschi will indicate the temperature in degrees Celsius all you need to do is count from 12°C and add the number of chirps in six seconds. The Oecanthus capensis will tell you the temperature in degrees Celsius as well but with using the calculation of 11°C plus the number of chirps in three seconds. Dr Rob Toms of the Transvaal Museum has scientifically investigated and delivered papers on this phenomenon, he has discovered further fascinating insights into the abilities of the cricket. He has established that these insects are also renowned for their self-made baffle, which works on the principle of a loudspeaker. In a very clever way the cricket positions itself in the apex of a leaf which, when it chirps it amplifies the vibrations in a similar way that a cone surrounding the membrane of a loud speaker. The male cricket is very selective and selects the most suitably shaped leaf to be a sure suitor and also to out sing any other contenders for a female mate. These tiny insects can also indicate the time and by doing so you take the temperature multiply it by four and subtract one hundred and sixty to determine the number of chirps per minute. (This calculation is made using the Fahrenheit temperature scale which, of course, must be translated from the Celsius equivalent by the southern hemisphere timekeepers) This calculation may be difficult to work out but it would definitely be a very interesting task and is worth figuring out as a brain teaser.


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