July 07, 2011
You'd think mating in the animal kingdom would be a simple thing. The biggest, strongest male gets to mate with the females. Or maybe he has to prove himself in combat with another male first, whatever.
But mating among animals and insects is no less complicated than it is among humans. It's all about being devious, and when it comes to sex, even the lowest of life forms have mastered the art of trickery, deceit and blackmail.
Scorpionflies, hangingflies and other Mecoptera are pretty terrifying-looking insects (not surprising for giant flying predatory fleas), but they also have a romantic side; during the mating season, males will find the juiciest, tastiest-looking bugs they can catch and present them like a box of chocolates to the females, who will carefully judge the offering and reciprocate the gesture with however much exoskeletal humping his effort deserves.
This has to be worth a proboscis job!
Unfortunately, competition for armor-plated pussy can get pretty fierce, and weaker males can have trouble outdoing the eviscerated cockroaches seductively waved around by stronger, more confident men. Those bastards! How do you compete with that?!
"Just look at the size of his tail bulge!"
Well, you'd think maybe they'd try to steal the kills from the bigger males, or something that makes you feel proud of the nerds of the species. But you forget that bugs really don't have a concept of "dignity."
"Is there something in my proboscis?"
So, taking a page from about a million '80s high school comedies, the desperate underdog males will sometimes impersonate females. You know, so that the tough-guy males will offer them juicy bugs in order to mate with them. Then the little guy simply takes those offerings and regifts them to score himself some segmented tail. Next time you see some douchebag picking up college girls in his Ferrari, just dress in drag long enough to swipe the keys.
I'm not crazy about the writing stile of the author of the article, but i totally love stories of reproductive strategies out there in the animal kingdom, that are unusual and supposedly "strange" if considered from a human perspective. I loved and highly recommend Dr Tatiana's Sex Advice for All Creation, by Olivia Judson, who is an evolutionary biologist. Her book is highly entertaining but it also explains the evolutionary mechanisms behind the choice of all these seemingly bizarre reproductive strategies. It's perfect summer reading.
I was not all pleased with the sleazy writing in this article, but I was fascinated by the subject. Thanks Adriana for posting a book worth reading on this topic, off to check it out on Amazon and no doubt add to my endless list of book waiting for purchase.
Don't buy it, i have it and can lend it to you.