Vyacheslav Argenberg/Moment/Getty Images

Soft-spoken crickets make megaphones out of leaves to amplify booty calls

Everyone has a type that we default to when thinking about a potential partner. For female tree crickets, that type is big and loud, which presents a bit of a problem for the smaller, softer-spoken male crickets who would like to find a mate but simply cannot muster up the courage to belt out their mating cry at the volume that the ladies want to hear it. So what's a quiet cricket to do? Why, construct a tiny megaphone made of leaves to attract a mate and then hope that she is taken by your ingenuity or at least ready to settle, of course.

New research published Wednesday in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B revealed this little trick that crickets have learned to stand out among louder rivals. The technique is called baffling. To pull it off, a male cricket will chew a hole through the middle of a leaf and push its head and forelegs through the opening that it created. Once the little leaping insect has plugged himself into the self-made amplifier, he starts to belt out his song, using the leaf to reach decibels that their chirp alone can't produce.

The baffling technique is not totally new to the scientific community, as observations of the behavior date as far back as the 1970s, but little was known as to what motivated crickets to utilize the technique. The new research provides an answer — or at least new insight into the practice. Researchers at the Indian Institute of Science observed Oecanthus henryi, a species of tree cricket, and found that it was the smaller, more petite male crickets that tended to rely on baffling. Without the leaf amp, those diminutive insects could produce chirps of about 60 decibels, which the American Academy of Audiology says is comparable to the volume of a normal conversation or about as loud as a dishwasher gets while operating. But by MacGyvering a megaphone, those little fellas are able to raise their voice up to above 70 decibels, about the same level as heavy traffic or nosy vacuum cleaners.

Separately, the researchers also identified the apparent motivation for these crickets to get so loud, other than the fact that men just like to hear the sound of their own voice sometimes. Lab research revealed that female crickets gravitate to louder chirping. They even pursued a recording of a quiet chirp when the researchers cranked up the volume to simulate the baffling effect.

Lest you think that this is simply the catfishing of the cricket world, the equivalent of the male cricket advertising themselves as 6'1" when they are clearly 5'7", the females seem to be fine with mating with the clever creatures that manage to artificially elevate their songs. And on top of that, the males seem to up their game with the newfound courage that only a leaf speaker could grant. Researchers found that while smaller crickets usually only last a few minutes during sex, they can more than double their performance length after finding a mate through baffling. The leaf seems to not only boost their voice, but their confidence, too.

Baffling doesn't quite even the playing field, as researchers found that females still gravitated to naturally larger and louder crickets, perhaps in part because they can belt out their song immediately and don't have to spend time constructing tools to get attention. But the mini megaphone gives the underdogs a shot and is a reminder that even in the cricket world, size isn't everything.