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.

Related Articles


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 November 20, 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 November 20, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Pygmy Marmoset Getting a Toothbrush Massage Is the Cutest

Pygmy Marmoset Getting a Toothbrush Massage Is the Cutest

Buzz60 (Nov. 19, 2014) This rescued pygmy marmoset named Ninita is obsessed with her toothbrush. It's cuteness overload, and Sean Dowling (@SeanDowlingTV) has the amazing video. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Why Are Chocolate Makers So Worried?

Why Are Chocolate Makers So Worried?

Reuters - Business Video Online (Nov. 19, 2014) Two big chocolate producers are warning the popular treat could run out by 2020 because people are eating it faster than farmers can grow cocoa. Ciara Lee reports Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Tiny Hamster Eating Thanksgiving Meal Breaks the Internet

Tiny Hamster Eating Thanksgiving Meal Breaks the Internet

Buzz60 (Nov. 19, 2014) A tiny hamster and a bunny and rat enjoy a tiny Thanksgiving meal where they stuff themselves to the brim. Sean Dowling (@SeanDowlingTV) has the cute video. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Giant Panda at Toronto Zoo Loves Somersaulting in the Snow

Giant Panda at Toronto Zoo Loves Somersaulting in the Snow

Buzz60 (Nov. 19, 2014) A giant panda at the Toronto Zoo named Da Mao is celebrating the northeast snowfall by playing and tumbling in the snow in his outdoor enclosure. Jen Markham has the story. Video provided by Buzz60
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:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

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