Thursday, 29 May 2014

Handcuffs, Bear-Traps and Spikes Lift the Lid on Some Unique Insect Sexual Habits (Op-Ed)

By James Gilbert, University of Sussex | May 28, 2014 03:59am ET

This article was originally published at The Conversation.The publication contributed the article to Live Science's Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.

Handcuffs, spikes and traps – you would think they were part of some bondage aficionado’s bedroom collection. But what are they doing in the insect world?

A new study I worked on sheds light on why some bushcrickets – usually gentle creatures – get pretty violent when it comes to sex, and in the process helps to settle a decades-old debate about their odd mating habits.

In just a few species of bushcrickets, scattered across the evolutionary tree, we found that males have evolved horrific-looking clasping devices near their genitals. They use them to hold females down for as long as possible after sex is done – that is, after they have transferred all their sperm. This results in long mating sessions, up to seven hours in some cases.



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