Cicadas are a species most keenly felt by their absence. After years underground, their larvae crawl forth to the surface, shed their skins, and take to the sky in a great racket. Weeks later, all that remains are their empty bodies--a testament to the swarm that was. Developed by the Naval Research Laboratory, the lightweight, disposable Cicada drones are a similar beast: many flying all at once, turning to just brittle shells blowing in the wind once the battle is over. This week, the Pentagon put the latest version of the Cicada on display, a tiny robot warrior ready for the future.
Well, it certainly sounds nicer than real cicadas would otherwise. To help them analyze data they had recorded about when cicadas sing, a team of scientists set their data to music. The musical notes—which replace recordings of actual cicada screeching—make the pattern in cicada-calling clear. The little bugs sing less intensely at first, and in waves. Then they build up in a noisy, near-constant chorus. Finally, they fade off in waves again. Take a listen:
This northern summer, billions of cicadas will rise from under the US East Coast, shed their grub-like bodies, and clumsily fly to perches in trees, where they will make a terrible racket. The insects are singing to attract mates, but this year, they'll have the ear of the U.S. Navy, too. Researchers at the U.S. Naval Undersea Warfare Center are dissecting cicadas in an effort to develop a better underwater sensor. Yesterday they presented a paper on their work at the International Congress on Acoustics.
Think the annual dose of Black Princes or Green Grocers here in Australia is loud? At least our cicadas are more or less consistent. Now spare a thought for the Yanks:Magicicada is a plague unlike any other, in the US northeast. And it is a plague with a reason: emerging in absurd, over-the-top, biblical numbers is the cicada's bizarre - but effective - means of survival.