Insects modify mating behavior in anticipation of storms

Oct 02, 2013

Insects modify calling and courting mating behavior in response to changes in air pressure, according to results published October 2 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Ana Cristina Pellegrino and José Maurício Bento, University of São Paulo, and colleagues from other institutions. The bugs' ability to predict adverse weather conditions may help them modify their mating behavior during high winds and rain, reducing risk of injury or even death.

Researchers studied mating behavior changes in the curcurbit beetle, the true armyworm moth, and the potato aphid under falling, stable, and increasing air pressure . When researchers measured the male beetles' response to female sex pheromones under the different conditions, they found a significant decrease in pheromone response when air pressure fell compared to stable or increasing pressure. Furthermore, 63% of males started copulating faster in the presence of females during dropping , a condition associated with high rains and winds. By contrast, under stable or rising air pressure conditions, all males showed full courtship behavior.

Additionally, the amount that female armyworm moths and potato aphids showed mate-attracting behavior was also measured under the three atmospheric conditions. The female armyworms' calling was reduced during decreasing air pressure, but the potato aphid showed reduced calling during both decreasing and increasing , two conditions that can occur with . In both cases, reduced calling went hand-in-hand with reduced . Bento explains, "The results presented show that three very different insect species all modify aspects of their sexual behaviour in response to changing barometric pressure. However, there is a great deal of interspecific variability in their responses that can be related to differences in size, flight ability and the diel periodicity of mating."

Explore further: Juvenile mice secrete a protective pheromone in their tears, blocking adult mating

More information: Pellegrino AC, Peñaflor MFGV, Nardi C, Bezner-Kerr W, Guglielmo CG, et al. (2013) Weather Forecasting by Insects: Modified Sexual Behaviour in Response to Atmospheric Pressure Changes. PLoS ONE 8(10): e75004. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0075004

Related Stories

Vision stimulates courtship calls in the grey tree frog

Nov 19, 2012

Male tree frogs like to 'see what they're getting' when they select females for mating, according to a new study by Dr. Michael Reichert from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in the US. His work, which is one of the ...

Facing the chill wind of blood pressure

May 22, 2013

(Medical Xpress)—High blood pressure is something that has traditionally been a problem in Scotland, but might there be a link to our climate?

Reversal of the black widow myth

May 06, 2013

The Black Widow spider gets its name from the popular belief that female spiders eat their male suitors after mating. However, a new study has shown that the tendency to consume a potential mate is also true of some types ...

Recommended for you

Danish museum discovers unique gift from Charles Darwin

Aug 29, 2014

The Natural History Museum of Denmark recently discovered a unique gift from one of the greatest-ever scientists. In 1854, Charles Darwin – father of the theory of evolution – sent a gift to his Danish ...

Top ten reptiles and amphibians benefitting from zoos

Aug 29, 2014

A frog that does not croak, the largest living lizard, and a tortoise that can live up to 100 years are just some of the species staving off extinction thanks to the help of zoos, according to a new report.

User comments : 0