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Vibrations through substrates are an important source of information for diverse organisms, from nematodes to elephants. The fundamental challenge for small animals using vibrational communication is to generate fast enough motion to provide the kinetic energy needed for effective information transfer through the substrate, whilst optimising energy efficiency over repeated cycles. Here we describe a novel vibratory organ found across a commercially important group of plant-feeding insects, the planthoppers (Hemiptera: Fulgoromorpha). This elastic recoil snapping organ generates substrate-borne broadband vibrations using fast, cyclical abdominal motion that transfers kinetic energy to the substrate through the legs. Elastic potential energy is stored and released twice using two different latched energy storage mechanisms, each utilising a different form of elastic recoil to increase the speed of motion. Comparison to the acoustic tymbal organ of cicadas (Hemiptera: Cicadomorpha), reveals functional convergence in their use of elastic mechanisms to increase the efficacy of mechanical communication.

Type

Journal article

Journal

PLoS Biology

Publisher

Public Library of Science

Publication Date

12/03/2019