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Cicada tymbal | by Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
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Cicada tymbal

This image shows one of the tymbals just below the pointer.


Male cicadas call from trees. Each individual male tries to call louder than the next in order to convince females to chose them for mating.


The sound is made with structures known as tymbals which are located on the sides of the first abdominal segment, near the top just behind where the hindwings attach. The above image shows one of the tymbals just below the pointer. Large muscles contract, causing the tymbal surface to bend inwards which produces a vibrating click. These vibrating clicking noises are enhanced by a large air chamber that extends well into the abdomen. Repeated contractions by thousands of cicadas can create a spectacular din. Females chose the male that interests them with a flick of their wings which stimulates the male to come closer.


For more information, check out Tree Top Opera, an NMNH Natural History Highlight. © Smithsonian Institution

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Uploaded on June 24, 2008