Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Professor wins Ig Nobel Prize for beer, sex research

Date:
September 29, 2011
Source:
University of Toronto
Summary:
The tragic tale of how male Australian jewel beetles became so enamored with brown "stubby" beer bottles that they try to mate with them -- so vigorously that they die trying to copulate in the hot sun.

A male Australian jewel beetle attempts to mate with a "stubby" beer bottle.
Credit: Darryl Gwynne

It was a case of a besotted male and beer. Love-sick and lonely, the male girded his loins and took immediate action to relieve his unhappiness -- but with a surprising outcome, as a U of T Mississauga professor discovered.

The male in question, an Australian jewel beetle (Julodimorpha bakewelli), became so enamored with a brown "stubby" beer bottle that he tried to mate with it -- so vigorously that he died trying to copulate in the hot sun rather than leave willingly, says Professor Darryl Gwynne of biology, an international expert in behavioural ecology, specifically the evolution of reproductive behaviour.

Gwynne and his Australian colleague David Rentz were awarded an Ig Nobel Prize at Harvard University for their 1983 paper "Beetles on the Bottle: Male Buprestids Mistake Stubbies for Females." The Ig Nobel Prizes, a parody of the Nobel Prizes, are awarded annually by the scientific humour magazine Annals of Improbable Research to "first make people laugh and then make them think." The prizes are intended to celebrate the unusual, honour the imaginative and spur people's interest in science, medicine and technology.

"I'm honoured, I think," Gwynne says, with a smile on his face. "The awards make people think, and they're a bit of a laugh. Really, we've been sitting here by the phone for the past 20 plus years waiting for the call. Why did it take them so long?"

Gwynne and Rentz were conducting field work in Western Australia 23 years ago when they noticed something unusual along the side of the road. "We were walking along a dirt road with the usual scattering of beer cans and bottles when we saw about six bottles with beetles on top or crawling up the side. It was clear the beetles were trying to mate with the bottles."

The bottles -- stubbies as they are known in Australia -- resemble a "super female" jewel beetle, Gwynne says: big and orangey brown in colour, with a slightly dimpled surface near the bottom (designed to prevent the bottle from slipping out of one's grasp) that reflects light in much the same way as female wing covers. The bottles proved irresistible to males. Ignoring the females, the males mounted or tried to climb up the bottles, refusing to leave. They fried to death in the sun, were eaten by hungry ants or had to be physically removed by the researchers.

Gwynne and Rentz determined that the males were attracted only to stubbies -- not to beer cans or wine bottles of a slightly different shade of brown. And it wasn't the bottles' contents that captured their attention: "Not only do western Australians never dispose of a beer bottle with beer still in it, but many of the bottles had sand and detritus accumulated over many months," the research paper notes.

Beer and sex humour aside, the research has serious messages, Gwynne says. First, when humans interfere -- perhaps unwittingly -- in an evolutionary process, there can be unintended consequences; in this case, female beetles are ignored by males which can have a huge impact on the natural world. "Improperly disposed of beer bottles not only present a physical and 'visual' hazard in the environment, but also could potentially cause great interference with the mating system of a beetle species," the paper says. To that end, Gwynne forwarded research results to a leading western Australian brewer.

And secondly, Gwynne points out that the research supports the theory of sexual selection: that males, in their eagerness to mate, are the ones that make mating mistakes.

Gwynne conducted his research as a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Western Australia in Nedlands. He joined U of T Mississauga in 1987. The research was published in the journal of the Entomological Society of Australia and the U.K.-based journal, Antenna.


Story Source:

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


Cite This Page:

University of Toronto. "Professor wins Ig Nobel Prize for beer, sex research." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 29 September 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110929235201.htm>.
University of Toronto. (2011, September 29). Professor wins Ig Nobel Prize for beer, sex research. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110929235201.htm
University of Toronto. "Professor wins Ig Nobel Prize for beer, sex research." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110929235201.htm (accessed October 21, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

'Cadaver Dog' Sniffs out Human Remains

'Cadaver Dog' Sniffs out Human Remains

AP (Oct. 21, 2014) — Where's a body buried? Buster's nose can often tell you. He's a cadaver dog, specially trained to find human remains and increasingly being used by law enforcement and accepted in courts. These dogs are helping solve even decades-old mysteries. (Oct. 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
White Lion Cubs Born in Belgrade Zoo

White Lion Cubs Born in Belgrade Zoo

AFP (Oct. 20, 2014) — Two white lion cubs, an extremely rare subspecies of the African lion, were recently born at Belgrade Zoo. They are being bottle fed by zoo keepers after they were rejected by their mother after birth. Duration: 00:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Traditional Farming Methods Gaining Ground in Mali

Traditional Farming Methods Gaining Ground in Mali

AFP (Oct. 20, 2014) — He is leading a one man agricultural revolution in Mali - Oumar Diatabe uses traditional farming methods to get the most out of his land and is teaching others across the country how to do the same. Duration: 01:44 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Goliath Spider Will Give You Nightmares

Goliath Spider Will Give You Nightmares

Buzz60 (Oct. 20, 2014) — An entomologist stumbled upon a South American Goliath Birdeater. With a name like that, you know it's a terrifying creepy crawler. Sean Dowling (@SeanDowlingTV) has the details. 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