moths drink the tears of sleeping birds



Moths drink the tears of sleeping birds is a string quartet for Montreal’s Quatuor Bozzini. It was premiered 14th November, 2015 at the Music Gallery alongside PreLieu by John Oswald, and new works by Emilie LeBel and Mitch Renaud. Quatuor Bozzini was co-presented by Blue Moss Ensemble and the Music Gallery with the support of the Ontario Arts Council.


Program notes: 

Scientists have recently revealed that a species of moth in the Kirindy forest of Madagascar drinks tears from the eyes of birds. Birds can usually fly away from these predators, but not while sleeping. The Madagascan moths were observed on the necks of sleeping magpie robins and Newtonia birds, with the tip of their proboscises inserted under the bird’s eyelid, drinking avidly. Sleeping birds have two eyelids, both closed. So instead of the soft, straw-like mouthparts found on tear-drinking moths elsewhere, the Madagascan moth has a proboscis “shaped like an ancient harpoon,” with hooks and barbs. It is inserted under the eyelid where the barbs are used to anchor it in place. The team does not yet know whether the insect spits out an anaesthetic to dull the irritation. They also want to investigate whether, like their counterparts elsewhere, the Madagascan tear-drinkers are all males who get most of their nutrition from the tears. (Deborah MacKenzie)

Journal reference: Biology Letters (DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2006.0581)

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