Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Firefly sex success: the secret is in the gift-giving


Male fireflies, known for attracting mates with a flash of light, also seduce with a gift, say scientists.
This gifts comes in the form of a spermatophore: a package containing sperm and nourishment for the female.
Researchers from Tufts University in Boston, US, found that females preferred males that had the largest, most nourishing gift.
The team presented their findings at the First Joint Congress on Evolutionary Biology in Ottawa, Canada.
With supervision from his colleague Sara Lewis, who has been studying fireflies for 20 years, Dr Adam South used LED lights to mimic the flashes of amorous male fireflies.
They showed one group of females artificial male flashes in patterns and durations that had been proven attractive in previous studies. Another group of females saw "unattractive" flashes.
In the wild, females are very picky about what males they reveal themselves to during this part of the courtship routine. Females will only "flash back" to males they are attracted to.
But in this experimental set-up, after several minutes of the courtship flashing, males and females were paired together in miniature chambers. The Tufts biologists filmed the encounters under infrared illumination to see what was happening when the lights went out.

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