the forest and the trees
September 13, 2005 3:51 AM   Subscribe

I hear Crickets

I was woken at about 4:30 this morning. Before returning to sleep I listened to the crickets outside for a while. Against a slow, rhythmic backdrop of dozens (hundreds? thousands?) of crickets that slowly changed from zzzz zzzz zzzz zzzz to zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz and back, I could always isolate 1, sometimes 2, soloists letting out individual chirps. The soloists seemed to take turns on center stage, stepping out then fading back into the background.

Is there cricket orchestration? Does some primitive cognition only allow me to count 1, 2 or many crickets? (Do others hear crickets the same way?)
posted by klarck to Science & Nature (8 answers total)
First, consider that they are not all equidistant from you, and the "soloists" are probably just those close enough to sound louder. Second, consider that there are probably a dozen or so that sound that loud. If you were a hundred yards away, you'd have a different set of soloists, and the set you have now would be background. The crickets probably do their cricking in bursts, then wait for a response. So yes, they are in a sense taking center stage, but so are all the other crickets. The ones not close to you just blend into a background.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:27 AM on September 13, 2005

Consider, all such sounds are not from crickets. Sometimes they're frogs. And probably other kinds of insects.
posted by Goofyy at 7:02 AM on September 13, 2005

I have always wondered the same thing. If you can get into the middle of a field of crickets it does souns as if there are distinct rythmic variations in the various crickets' song that travels acrross the field. I'ce always wondered if this was some sort of "hive mind" sort of communication.

On the other hand. the human mind is incrediably good, perhaps too good, at imposing order and patterns onto chaos. See for example here or here. So who knows.
posted by rtimmel at 8:05 AM on September 13, 2005

The crickets are probably competing in some way for crickettes attention - that gives it some kind of structure.
posted by lunkfish at 8:19 AM on September 13, 2005

Best answer: Crickets and other such bugs are synchronized.

Duncan Watts, now a sociologist previously a physicist and mathematician, became interested in the research on networks as a way of understanding how crickets (and other biological things that synchronize, like heart cells) synchronized in the absence of some centralized control. This was part of his physics dissertation research before he moved on to sociology.
posted by duck at 9:23 AM on September 13, 2005

Your profile indicates that you are in the US. A useful page for identifying the different types of "musical" insects is here.
posted by ktrey at 10:34 AM on September 13, 2005

If it bothers you I'll stop.
posted by crickets at 11:47 AM on September 13, 2005

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