Friday, September 22, 2006
New Scientist: What do you do when your only means of attracting members of the opposite sex also puts your life in jeopardy? For field crickets on the Hawaiian island of Kauai, shutting up seems to work.
According to a new study, rapid evolution in the Kauain population of the oceanic field cricket Teleogryllus oceanicus has rendered nine-tenths of the males there incapable of producing their iconic night-time call. The genetic mutation, which changes the shape of the male's wing to make it silent, means the crickets are better adapted to avoid a deadly parasite.
The finding dumbfounded biologist Marlene Zuk, at the University of California in Riverside, US, who first thought the dwindling population of crickets she was studying had gone extinct when she no longer heard their calls. [Hawaii]
Based on the Royal Society's 'Biology Letters' paper "Silent night: adaptive disappearance of a sexual signal in a parasitized population of field crickets" (Abstract)
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