Headline of the week: Singing bug willie

This week’s Headline of the Week comes from last year — June 30, 2011, to be specific. We neglected it, unfairly, at the time, though we did mention it later. Now we are mentioning it again. Behold:

‘Singing penis’ sets noise record for water insect

By Ella Davies
Reporter, BBC Nature

Scientists from France and Scotland recorded the aquatic animal “singing” at up to 99.2 decibels, the equivalent of listening to a loud orchestra play while sitting in the front row. The insect makes the sound by rubbing its penis against its abdomen in a process known as “stridulation”. Researchers say the song is a courtship display performed to attract a mate. Micronecta scholtzi are freshwater insects measuring just 2mm that are common across Europe.

In a study published in the journal PLoS One, the scientists discovered that the small animals make a mighty sound….

The BBC Web site goes on to reproduce the sound, but not the penis. The study is: “So Small, So Loud: Extremely High Sound Pressure Level from a Pygmy Aquatic Insect (Corixidae, Micronectinae),” Jérôme Sueur, David Mackie, James F.C. Windmill, PLoS ONE 6(6), 2011, p. e21089.

(Thanks to investigator John Hoyland for bringing it to our attention.)

UPDATE: Alexis Rudd says, “Decibels in air and water are reported differently, so convert carefully between your insect & orchestra.”