Elderly crickets are set in their ways, study finds

April 28, 2015, University of Exeter
Crickets were caught, tagged, tested and released back into their burrows. Credit: WildCrickets.org

As insects grow old their behaviour becomes increasingly predictable according to new research published in the journal Behavioural Ecology. The study, which set out to understand how personality alters with age, found that behavioural traits tend to become entrenched as crickets age.

The results suggest that older may struggle to respond to changing and would therefore be at a disadvantage relative to younger individuals in the face of changes in climate, habitat or diet or in the event of a natural disaster.

In the study, carried out by the University of Exeter, wild field crickets (Gryllus campestris) were set to measure their shyness, their inclination for activity and exploration and their tendency to leave a refuge.

The researchers found that the crickets, which had an adult lifespan of about 25 days, all had different personalities but, unlike humans, they tended to become more active as they grew older.

David Fisher from the University of Exeter's Penryn Campus in Cornwall said: "Even animals that only live for a very short time show signs of ageing, just like humans. Our results show that behaviour in tends to become more ingrained as the individuals age."

Project leader Professor Tom Tregenza also from the University of Exeter said: "This has important implications for our understanding of the survival prospects of older animals as it suggests that they may be less able to respond to changes in their environment."

The study was carried out in a Spanish meadow wired up with 140 video cameras to capture the lives of an entire population of wild insects. Crickets were caught, tagged, tested and released back into their burrows. The entrances to the burrows were monitored to enable the same individuals to be re-captured. They then underwent further personality testing to determine how their responses changed with age.

Wild field crickets (Gryllus campestris) emerging from their burrow. The entrances to the burrows were monitored with video cameras to enable the same individuals to be re-captured. Credit: Wildcrickets.org

Explore further: Differences in personality influence survival in field crickets

More information: 'Dynamics of among-individual behavioral variation over adult lifespan in a wild insect' will be published in the journal Behavioural Ecology.

Related Stories

Among insects, 'chivalry' isn't dead (w/ video)

October 6, 2011

Some male crickets will apparently put the lives of their mating partners ahead of their own. When a mated pair is out together, a male will allow a female priority access to the safety of a burrow, even though it means a ...

Study shows sharks have personalities

October 1, 2014

Some sharks are 'gregarious' and have strong social connections, whilst others are more solitary and prefer to remain inconspicuous, according to a new study which is the first to show that the notorious predators have personality ...

Recommended for you

Scientists engineer new CRISPR platform for DNA targeting

January 23, 2019

A team that includes the scientist who first harnessed the revolutionary CRISPR-Cas9 and other systems for genome editing of eukaryotic organisms, including animals and plants, has engineered another CRISPR system, called ...

Human mutation rate has slowed recently

January 23, 2019

Researchers from Aarhus University, Denmark, and Copenhagen Zoo have discovered that the human mutation rate is significantly slower than for our closest primate relatives. This new knowledge may be important for estimates ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.