Thursday, 23 August 2018

Bat signal: Fireflies' glow tells bats they taste awful

August 22, 2018 by Seth Borenstein

Fireflies flash not just for sex, but survival, a new study suggests.


Scientists wanted to find out if there's more to the lightning bug's signature blinking glow than finding a mate. Some experts had speculated it was a glaring signal to predators, like bats, that fireflies taste bad.

To test out whether the glow acted like a flashing bad Yelp review, researchers at Boise State University put bats and fireflies in front of high-speed cameras. They published their results in Wednesday's journal Science Advances .

The painstaking experiment required researchers to introduce western bats, which had never seen lightning bugs before, to the insects. Later, they hand-painted firefly bellies black, essentially turning off their night lights, avoiding the holes the critters breathe through.

When the bats first saw the unfamiliar lit-up fireflies, they swooped in and munched on them, only to get a bad taste in their mouths.

"They shake their heads, salivate and spit and generally despise their caretakers for giving such a rude meal," said study author Jesse Barber, a Boise State biology professor.

After a few tries, the bats then avoided the glowing fireflies. (Despite the popular misconception, bats aren't blind, a study author noted.)

Once the fireflies essentially taught bats that they taste bad, Barber and colleagues introduced the darkened fireflies. About 40 percent of the painted ones were munched, while none of the normal fireflies were eaten.



No comments:

Post a comment

You only need to enter your comment once! Comments will appear once they have been moderated. This is so as to stop the would-be comedian who has been spamming the comments here with inane and often offensive remarks. You know who you are!

Related Posts with Thumbnails

ShareThis