Cool And Gross: Firefly Courtship Remarkably Similar To Our Own

Think of fireflies, and you might recall memories of summer where you looked at the flashing lights hovering over a field, or even ran through them, trying to cusp your hands around one of the insects to catch the glowing lights. Really, you were just stepping into a huge orgy. The New York Times talked with evolutionary ecologist Sara Lewis to find that the flashing lights in fireflies are mating calls. However, what Dr. Lewis found in her research is that they aren’t any old mating calls, and the conditions for firefly seduction are eerily similar to what (human) women go through when finding a guy: “The female fireflies turned out to be remarkably picky. In many cases, a male flash got no response at all. In some species, females preferred faster pulse rates. In others, the females preferred males that made long-lasting pulses.” Male and female fireflies establish dialogues through light signals, turning a meadow into “a stage for an invertebrate melodrama, full of passion and yearning, of courtship duets and competitions for affection, of cruel deception and gruesome death.” Sounds familiar. Minus the death (hopefully). The one place where things in the insect world differ is how female fireflies have a huge pick of men (that is so not New York City). Says Lewis, “What really struck me was that in this one-acre area there were hundreds of males and I could only find two or three females,” she said. “I thought, ‘Man, this is so intense.’” And according to Lewis, those lucky bitches “start dialogues with up to 10 males in a single evening and can keep several conversations going at once.” Now where did you say this magical place exists again? [NY Times]

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