In late 2017, a number of diplomats and related personnel working at the embassy in Cuba suffered a series of bizarre health problems, including concussions and brain damage. No one knew what the problem was, and after more than a year of investigations officials were no closer to an answer. But now, a group of researchers : Anurogryllus celerinictus, otherwise known as the Indies short-tailed cricket.
From the very beginning, officials identified that the cause of the diplomats’ distress was related to some sort of sound they had been hearing. In March, the Associated Press released a recording of that sound. At the time, experts speculated that it could be some sort of sonic interference produced by a particular arrangement of electronic devices.
The truth is likely to be much simpler. Two researchers, Alexander Stubbs from the University of California, Berkeley, and Fernando Montealegre-Z from the University of Lincoln in England, heard that AP recording and immediately suspected it was from some type of insect. They downloaded the recording and analyzed its acoustic patterns—properties like frequency, duration of the signal, and power spectrum—and found it was an exact match to the noise made by the Indies short-tailed cricket.
“I can say fairly definitively that the AP-released recording is of a cricket, and we think we know what species it is,” said Stubbs .
So how did a bunch of crickets manage to incapacitate a collection of U.S. diplomats? It’s tough to say exactly, but according to the researchers—and everyone who’s ever heard one—this particular species of cricket is very, very loud. There’s a chance the incredible din simply drove the diplomats our of their gourds, but it’s also possible that the cause of the diplomats’ suffering is actually completely unrelated to the noise. Still, that’s one mystery solved, at least, and now future diplomats will know to pack some earplugs on their next trip to Cuba.