Saturday, June 11, 2011

Femme Fatale


Outside tonight, Noor asked: "Do fireflies choose if they will blink or not?"

I said I thought it was a form of communication and she said, "Yea, to attract a mate...but do they get to chose if they want to attract a mate?"

So we looked it up. Noor didn't find the answer definitive, but we learned something else cool in the process.

Males looking to mate walk a thin line between sex and death every time they flash their light. Females of thePhoturis genus of North American have figured out how to turn amorous males into an easy meal. They’ve developed an ability to replicate the mating flash code used by the Photinus genus. The Photuris females will flash back their hacked code in response to males, and when the poor suckers come looking for some loving, they walk into a dinner date that won’t end well.
Not only do the femme fatales get a meal, but they also pick up an insurance policy against getting eaten themselves. Photinus fireflies have a natural defense against predators in the form of steroidal chemicals called lucibufagins, which Photuris fireflies lack. When a female Photuris cannibalizes a male Photinus, though, the toxins slip into her bloodstream. She’s now got a defense against hungry predators and can even pass the protective chemicals onto offspring.

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