Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Insects not 'hard-wired': Young male crickets grow larger in the presence of abundant male song

Date:
May 13, 2010
Source:
University of California - Riverside
Summary:
Biologists have found that male crickets growing up in the presence of abundant male song tend to be larger, behave differently, and invest nearly 10 percent more reproductive tissue mass in their testes than male crickets growing up in a silent environment. The subtle modifications of behavior depending on the environment, not genes, means that even in insects, animals are not "programmed" or "hard-wired" to do what they do.

Marlene Zuk, a professor of biology at UC Riverside, observes a cricket in the lab.
Credit: Walter Urie.

In the animal kingdom, sexual signals often are manifested as displays of bright coloration or, in the case of crickets, as loud song.

Adult male crickets produce loud song to attract females, but the song, which permeates the environment, can be overheard also by unintended receivers -- such as young males unable to produce song due to a mutation they carry.

Until now researchers have not understood how non-singing male crickets use the song of singing males to modify their behavior or physical attributes to their advantage.

Now biologists at the University of California, Riverside have shed light on this mystery.

In the lab, they exposed one set of juvenile male crickets to a silent environment (which mimicked a population without very many singing males) and a second set of young male crickets to a song-rich environment (mimicking a population that contained lots of singing males).

Comparing the two sets of data, they found that male crickets growing up in the presence of abundant male song tend to be larger than male crickets growing up in a silent environment, and invest nearly 10 percent more reproductive tissue mass in their testes.

The researchers also found that male crickets that do not hear song during rearing are more likely to act as 'satellites,' hanging out near singing males and intercepting females on their way for matings.

"Subtle modifications of behavior depending on the environment, not genes, means that even in insects, animals aren't 'programmed' or 'hard-wired' to do what they do," said Marlene Zuk, a professor of biology, whose lab conducted the research.

Study results appeared May 11 in the journal Current Biology.

"Larger is probably better for the crickets because it allows males to better compete against other males in their environment," said Nathan Bailey, the lead author of the research paper, who worked as a postdoctoral researcher in Zuk's lab. "Being flexible according to who is around can be beneficial and help maximize the chance of reproducing."

The new research suggests that sexual signals may play a hitherto under-appreciated role in determining how an animal looks and behaves once it grows up.

"Sexual signals do more than just attract mates," Bailey explained. "They can also influence other animals' development just by virtue of being perceived. The ability to change oneself according to the prevailing social conditions might be adaptive, especially in an environment that is constantly changing.

"On a more global scale, people often think of insects, especially the non-social insects, as mindless automatons, pre-programmed to carry out simple procedures throughout their lives," he said. "Our research shows quite the opposite, and demonstrates how even small, inconspicuous animals respond to the vagaries of their social environment by capitalizing on conspicuous signals that are intended for a different receiver."

The research, all of which was done at UCR, was funded by the National Science Foundation, the UCR Academic Senate and the UCR Graduate Division.

"Our findings have caused us to think more about the implications of social experience in insects," Bailey said. "For example, how do these changes give the crickets an edge in competitive encounters? And do these findings apply to other species of animals -- do they respond in the same way to sexual signals?"

Bailey and Zuk were joined in the study by Brian Gray, a graduate student working in Zuk's lab. Currently, Bailey is a postdoctoral research fellow in the School of Biology, University of St. Andrews, United Kingdom.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of California - Riverside. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Nathan W. Bailey, Brian Gray, Marlene Zuk. Acoustic Experience Shapes Alternative Mating Tactics and Reproductive Investment in Male Field Crickets. Current Biology, 2010; 20 (9): 845 DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2010.02.063

Cite This Page:

University of California - Riverside. "Insects not 'hard-wired': Young male crickets grow larger in the presence of abundant male song." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 13 May 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/05/100512181054.htm>.
University of California - Riverside. (2010, May 13). Insects not 'hard-wired': Young male crickets grow larger in the presence of abundant male song. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/05/100512181054.htm
University of California - Riverside. "Insects not 'hard-wired': Young male crickets grow larger in the presence of abundant male song." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/05/100512181054.htm (accessed July 30, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle

Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle

AP (July 30, 2014) Thousands of people are trekking to a Bavarian farmer's field to check out a mysterious set of crop circles. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Concern Grows Over Worsening Ebola Crisis

Concern Grows Over Worsening Ebola Crisis

AFP (July 30, 2014) Pan-African airline ASKY has suspended all flights to and from the capitals of Liberia and Sierra Leone amid the worsening Ebola health crisis, which has so far caused 672 deaths in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Duration: 00:43 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
At Least 20 Chikungunya Cases in New Jersey

At Least 20 Chikungunya Cases in New Jersey

AP (July 30, 2014) At least 20 New Jersey residents have tested positive for chikungunya, a mosquito-borne virus that has spread through the Caribbean. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Otters Enjoy Water Slides at Japan Zoo

Raw: Otters Enjoy Water Slides at Japan Zoo

AP (July 30, 2014) River otters were hitting the water slides to beat the summer heatwave on Wednesday at Ichikawa City's Zoological and Botanical Garden. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

    Environment News

    Technology News



      Save/Print:
      Share:

      Free Subscriptions


      Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

      Get Social & Mobile


      Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

      Have Feedback?


      Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
      Mobile: iPhone Android Web
      Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
      Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
      Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins