There’s a small nocturnal fly that stalks a singing male cricket, then dive-bombs, leaving a brood of larvae on its back. And as if this aerial assault isn’t bad enough, the larvae quickly burrow into their new host and emerge about a week later, killing it. What’s truly remarkable is the fly’s phenomenally acute hearing, which it uses to locate the chirping cricket. Because the fly’s ‘ears’ are less than 2 mm apart, sound reaches them both almost simultaneously. Without an ingenious mechanism, it would be impossible for the fly to pinpoint the sound. But it has a highly complex system that amplifies the nanosecond time difference between its two auditory organs. Now a team of scientists has developed a tiny prototype device (pictured here under a microscope) that mimics the fly’s hearing mechanism, ushering in a new generation of hypersensitive hearing aids.
Written by Nick Kennedy