Science The Cuban Cricket Crisis: New study identifies insect as likely culprit of "sonic attacks"

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  1. tom_mai78101

    tom_mai78101 The Helper Connoisseur / Ex-MineCraft Host Staff Member

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    Newswise — Just two years ago, the U.S. Embassy in Havana was bustling with U.S. personnel sent by the Obama Administration to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba. Today it is nearly empty. In late 2016, diplomats started hearing a loud, piercing noise. Two dozen of them reported symptoms such as ear pain and dizziness, and were diagnosed with injuries consistent with a concussion. Suspicions of politically motivated “sonic attacks” soon followed. The U.S. State Department recalled most personnel from Cubaand reduced its embassy staff in Havana to a skeleton crew. Cooperative measures between the two governments stalled amidst conspiracy theories of high-tech attack. Despite ongoing investigations by American and Cuban government agencies, and extensive coverage of the study by major news outlets, the source of the strange noise provoking the crisis has remained an enigma.

    But a new study indicates that the culprit behind this debacle is in fact… a cricket. According to Alexander Stubbs, a scientist in the Department of Integrative Biology and Museum of Vertebrate Zoology at the University of California, Berkeley, the mysterious noise is actually the echoing call of the Indies short-tailed cricket (Anurogryllus celerinictus). Stubbs will present his findings this week at the 2019 Annual Meeting of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology in Tampa, Florida, based on a paper that was just released through the bioArxive online database.

    The suspicious noise had been recorded by U.S. personnel stationed in Cuba. One of these recordings was released to the public through the Associated Press (AP). Stubbs listened to the recording and was reminded of insect calls that he had heard while doing field work in the Caribbean. He decided to investigate further, reasoning that if an insect were responsible for the noise, it should be possible to identify the particular species based on the unique acoustic signature of its call.

    Stubbs analyzed the acoustic power of the mysterious noise as a function of frequency. Using publicly available field recordings, Stubbs did the same analyses for hundreds of insects and found a few potential matches. But the nuances of the pulse structure in the AP recording did not perfectly match any of the insect recordings made in the field.



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