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article imageCricket mating call may be cause of those 'sonic attacks' in Cuba

By Karen Graham     Jan 7, 2019 in Science
Some Canadian and American diplomats working in Cuba have reportedly suffered serious health problems and mysterious symptoms after a possible "sonic attack" on their homes resulted in staff members being recalled from Cuba.
The purported sonic attacks began in late 2016 when diplomatic personnel began experiencing unexplained health problems, including headaches, nausea, and other ailments after hearing penetrating noises in their homes and nearby hotels.
The malady spread to Canadian diplomats when in August 2017, five Canadians and 16 American diplomatic staff were confirmed to be suffering symptoms.
Global News reports that by January 2018, the number of affected Canadians increased to eight, then to 10 in April 2018, then 13 in November 2018. By September 2018, 26 Americans had been affected.
TV grab from a recent recording by Cuban Television showing environmentalists analyzing sounds in ar...
TV grab from a recent recording by Cuban Television showing environmentalists analyzing sounds in areas where officials from the US embassy in Havana were allegedly affected by mysterious attacks in the past months
The mysterious wave of illnesses fueled speculation that some sort of sinister radio or ultrasonic waves had been targeting the diplomatic corps of the two countries. The explanation only fueled the news feed and seemed to gain some credence after the Associated Press released an audio recording of the persistent, high-pitched drone sound given to them by American officials.
While not all the diplomats suffering from the illness could say they heard the high-pitched noise, it was speculated that the culprit was either malfunctioning eavesdropping equipment or even some kind of new weapon using microwave beams. this, in turn, prompted a joint investigation between the Canadian and U.S. governments, although they have yet to give an explanation to the public.
Canadian and US officials said they had launched an investigation into the cause of diplomats' ...
Canadian and US officials said they had launched an investigation into the cause of diplomats' sudden hearing loss, migraines and nausea in Havana
Enrique DE LA OSA, AFP/File
Fresh ears on the sonic attack
Fresh eyes and ears were needed to solve the mystery of the sonic attacks, and that is what happened when scientists from the University of Lincoln in the UK and University of California, Berkeley in the U.S. started listening to the audio recording.
In a non-peer reviewed paper published on January 5, 2019, the scientists claimed the true source of the "piercing din is the song of the Indies short-tailed cricket, known formally as Anurogryllus celerinictus."
“The recording is definitively a cricket that belongs to the same group,” said Fernando Montealegre-Zapata, a professor of sensory biology at the University of Lincoln. “The call of this Caribbean species is about 7 kHz, and is delivered at an unusually high rate, which gives humans the sensation of a continuous sharp trill.”
Montealegre-Zapata recalls that as a child growing up in South America, he often collected crickets of a similar species, keeping them in cages in his room. One night, a penetrating, shrill sound woke him up. The culprit was a male cricket calling for mates.
Needless to say, the offender was banned from the room, but Montealegre-Zapata could still hear the male's mating call. “I am not surprised that this call could disturb people who are not familiar with insect sounds,” he said.
In order to figure out which kind of cricket made the sound, Montealegre-Zapata and Alexander Stubbs at the University of California searched a scientific database for insect sounds that matched the Cuban recording. The call of the Indies short-tailed cricket turned out to be remarkably similar to the AP's recording.
The study found the "AP recording exhibits frequency decay in individual pulses, a distinct acoustic signature of cricket sound production. While the temporal pulse structure in the recording is unlike any natural insect source, when the cricket call is played on a loudspeaker and recorded indoors, the interaction of reflected sound pulses yields a sound virtually indistinguishable from the AP sample."
While the researchers argue the sound itself can be explained, the symptoms reported by diplomats remain unexplained. “Thus, while disconcerting, the mysterious sounds in Cuba are not physically dangerous and do not constitute a sonic attack,” the researchers stated.
And the researchers also caution; “The fact that the sound on the recording was produced by a Caribbean cricket does not rule out the possibility that embassy personnel were victims of another form of attack."
Anurogryllus celerinictus.
Anurogryllus celerinictus, the Indies short-tailed cricket, is a species of cricket in the family Gryllidae. It was described for the first time in 1973. Anurogryllus arboreus, the common short-tailed cricket or arboreal short-tailed cricket found in the southern and southeastern United States belongs to the same family.
They are both burrowing crickets who spend time underground, digging around. A. arboreus occurs primarily along the Atlantic Coast from New Jersey to Florida and westward to southeastern Texas. The only other species of Anurogryllus found in the United States is A. celerinictus, which occurs on the Florida Keys as well as in Cuba.
More about sonic blasts, Havana embassy, Canada and the US, Indies shorttailed cricket, male mating call
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