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   from the issue of July 26, 2007

Crickets research outlines mating habits, benefits


According to a paper published in "Biology Letters" by William Wagner, UNL biology professor, and his colleague Andrew Smith, a former UCARE student, female crickets choose to re-mate with male crickets that provide (as Wagner phrases it) "high quality benefits."

Champagne and chocolates? Not quite.

The most desirable courting practices among male crickets in Wagner's study were rapid chirping and beneficial seminal fluid, which may contain proteins and hormones that enhance female cricket survival and reproduction.

"When a female has decided to mate with a male, she'll mate with him between one and six times in a given night before leaving and mating with other males on other nights," Wagner said. "What we did was pair females with males that varied in benefit quality... We found that females are more likely to re-mate with males that provide higher quality benefits."

Unfortunately, this fickle female cricket behavior has spawned generations of unscrupulous males. As females rely on male singing to signal a male's desirability, some males signal that they will provide benefits, but then withhold them after mating. The deception works in the female's favor in the end; they refuse to re-mate with males that don't provide benefits. Wagner and his colleagues believe that this type of conditional re-mating will penalize cheaters and favor the evolution of higher quality benefits.

So can humans learn anything from our six-legged friends?

"This might be applicable to humans," Wagner said. "Natural selection in the past should have favored behaviors that increase an individual's reproductive success. But human behavior is also affected by social and cultural factors."



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