Ximena Bernal, assistant professor and biology researcher at Texas Tech University, has been awarded a grant of $508,000 by the National Science Foundation. The money was awarded for continuation of her studies on at the Smithsonian Tropical Research institute on a parasite and its potential to aid in hearing for humans.
The midge is a tiny winged insect that superficially looks similar to a mosquito. There are many variations of the midge, including the gnat, but Bernal will be studying midges that prey on male frogs and toads in Panama. Mosquitoes locate their prey by detection of chemical cues, such as carbon monoxide. Midges, however, are thought to actually hear the call of the toad or frog to locate the prey.
Since the insects have tiny ears, understanding how they work can potentially lead to information into the advancement of developing hearing aids that are smaller and more effective in the future. Not only that, but with the study containing 12 different types of midges and about two dozen types of toads and frogs, the discovery of which types of midge hear which types of frogs may garner a better understanding of how the flies evolved to be able to hear the call of their prey.