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In fireflies, flightless females lose out on gifts from males
Date:4/5/2011

MEDFORD/SOMERVILLE, Mass. Every parent with young children knows that couples need to work together to accomplish the myriad tasks waiting both at work and at home. But it may come as a surprise that fireflies also juggle their commitments to find a comfortable work-family balance. According to new research led by biologists at Tufts University's School of Arts and Sciences, wingless "stay-at-home" female fireflies get less support from their mates than females who are able to fly.

There are more than 2000 species of fireflies around the globe, and these beetles show astoundingly diverse lifestyles. For some familiar backyard sparklers, both the male and female firefly have wings and can easily take to the air.

However, many female fireflies can only dream about flying because they don't have any wings. These wingless belles lounge on the ground or clamber onto twigs, where they lure flying males with a steady luminescent glow -- the common European glow-worm is a shining example.

A study published in the April 2011 issue of the journal Evolution (online Dec. 22) by Tufts biologists and collaborators at the University of Georgia and the Taiwan Museum of Science reveals a surprising link between these flightless females and how much their male partners are willing to contribute to their collective reproductive gain.

Like all creatures, firefly females maximize their evolutionary success by producing lots of offspring. Previous work by the Tufts research team has shown that some male fireflies donate a "nuptial gift" to females during mating. This gift contains sperm wrapped up in a nutritious high-protein package that helps a female to produce more eggs. Because most fireflies stop eating once they become adults, male nuptial gifts are significant for both sexes.

To explore these insects' work-family balance, the Tufts researchers set out to answer the question: When firefly females are flightless, do
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Contact: Kim Thurler
kim.thurler@tufts.edu
617-627-3175
Tufts University
Source:Eurekalert  

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