So I am designing a fantasy world, and in it are some fairly stereotypical dwarves, anyhow I was wondering is I could replace the traditional "canary in a coal mine" trick with a cricket and/or multiple crickets. This would give me the bonus of explaining why the dwarves hold them almost sacred as the help against the Blackdamp (underground gas). They would also be kept for music. So would this work? And if not, any other ideas?

EDIT: Sorry, should have been more specific, I mean any of the "Damps" be it blackdamp, whitedamp or firedamp.

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    $\begingroup$ I cannot see why in a world where dwarves exist there wouldn't also be crickets who play music instead of making the infernal noise they make in the real world, and where they would be exquisitively sensitive to methane gas. You could also have the methane gas change their tune instead of killing them... $\endgroup$ – AlexP Feb 1 '18 at 1:03
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    $\begingroup$ @AlexP Honestly, who hates crickets? $\endgroup$ – kingledion Feb 1 '18 at 1:28
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    $\begingroup$ @kingledion: La Fontaine? Of all the people I know nobody has any feelings towards crickets; don't love them, don't hate them, peaceful coexistence. That is, provided the crickets stays in the fields where they belong. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Feb 1 '18 at 1:34
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    $\begingroup$ I always thought it was CO not CH4 that killed canaries. I suppose either could do it. $\endgroup$ – DPT Feb 1 '18 at 1:37
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    $\begingroup$ If the Dwarves are surrounded by crickets, that would explain why they are so grouchy all the time. $\endgroup$ – ShadoCat Feb 1 '18 at 18:27

This is being studied in the real world:

(1) http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/267/1449/1171.short

Here's a paper that found crickets chirp more slowly when their immune system is down. That fits with Will's ideas. Your tecchie-minded dwarves could bring a cricket and a metronome down every mine; when the two get out of synch everybody leaves!

(2) http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1046/j.1440-6055.2002.00288.x/full

This one worked by counting cricket population in small areas as a proxy measure for sulphur dioxide emissions. So rather than one pet cricket in a gilded cage that keels over or stops chirping when gas is released, you might envision dwarf scientists sampling a mine's cricket population.

For this to work, you'd need to invent a species of underground crickets. Maybe your dwarfs plant fungi in their mine shafts and create cricket habitats, then the science safety team does a cricket count every day.

(You could have a much cooler mine environment that way! We humans tend to think of mines as sterile and not places to live, but an underground species might think of them a lot more like gardens/homes.)

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    $\begingroup$ I'm deeply impressed that you managed to find a peer-reviewed answer to whether OP's dwarves can avoid gas leaks using cricket-detection technology, but really I should be used to this site by now. (+1) $\endgroup$ – Random Feb 1 '18 at 20:06
  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to WorldBuilding frank! This is a very good first answer. If you have a moment please take the tour and visit the help center to learn more about the site. Why should I register my account? might also be interesting for you. Registering allows you to do stuff like voting on answers and questions and you wouldn't lose your acquired reputation if you deleted your cookies. Looking forward to your contributions. Have fun! $\endgroup$ – Sec SE - clear Monica's name Feb 1 '18 at 21:03

This is an excellent premise and would make a first rate science fair project!

It is known that the rate of a crickets chirp corresponds with temperature. Crickets chirp faster when warm and slower when cold.


Also, I found an article about the use of carbon dioxide anesthesia on crickets. Carbon dioxide is a good standin for blackdamp.


But: does CO2 anesthesia slow chirp rate like cold? Or does it speed it up, as it speeds up the breathing of vertebrates? The dwarves will know I am sure. And a precision-minded dwarf would not be content with a canary that was alive or dead, or a lamp that was lit or not. By assessing chirp speed one can calculate with some precision the concentration of blackdamp. This aspect is why it would be a good science project.

Dwarves sing as they work, of course. There would be a different song corresponding to each chirp frequency.


I doubt it.

They used canaries because they (and other birds) are more sensitive than humans to toxic gasses. A canary's respiratory system is 20% of its bodily volume (according to this site)


Perhaps really large bugs would also work - the ones that are at the limit of a thorax based respiratory system. They could use pet tarantulas instead.

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    $\begingroup$ Given the way insects breath, I think they have a considerable fraction of their volume occupied by their trachea. They could be as good as canaries there, if volume is all that there is to it. $\endgroup$ – Renan Feb 1 '18 at 13:53
  • $\begingroup$ I don't have enough knowledge about crickets but I figured that they would be less susceptible to gasses than humans. $\endgroup$ – ShadoCat Feb 1 '18 at 18:30

Canaries don't recognise CO2 in mines. They react to metane. By "react to" I mean they die. A dead bird is a easy to spot and differentiate from alive one. (the only exception is Norwegian Blue). A simple "on/off" signature.

With a cricket you have chirp that is tied with temperature so with every meter you have different chirp.

EVEN if you set your cricket for that one particular mine (because temperature change differently due to geolocation of mine, rocks around, water veins etc.) your miner would need to know the chirp for particular level, tilt of that level, his position on said level regarding the starting point, change in temperature for 1 Celcius degree, calculate change in temperature of his position and starting point and THEN recognise different chirp from the environment changes.

I think that after first explosion where 200 dwarfs would die they would go "You know what? let's go with the old Yellow is up it's safe, Yellow down get the hell outta there".


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