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Size matters: Eavesdropping on sexual signals
Date:5/12/2010

ompete against other males in their environment," said Nathan Bailey, the lead author of the research paper, who worked as a postdoctoral researcher in Zuk's lab. "Being flexible according to who is around can be beneficial and help maximize the chance of reproducing."

The new research suggests that sexual signals may play a hitherto under-appreciated role in determining how an animal looks and behaves once it grows up.

"Sexual signals do more than just attract mates," Bailey explained. "They can also influence other animals' development just by virtue of being perceived. The ability to change oneself according to the prevailing social conditions might be adaptive, especially in an environment that is constantly changing.

"On a more global scale, people often think of insects, especially the non-social insects, as mindless automatons, pre-programmed to carry out simple procedures throughout their lives," he said. "Our research shows quite the opposite, and demonstrates how even small, inconspicuous animals respond to the vagaries of their social environment by capitalizing on conspicuous signals that are intended for a different receiver."

The research, all of which was done at UCR, was funded by the National Science Foundation, the UCR Academic Senate and the UCR Graduate Division.

"Our findings have caused us to think more about the implications of social experience in insects," Bailey said. "For example, how do these changes give the crickets an edge in competitive encounters? And do these findings apply to other species of animalsdo they respond in the same way to sexual signals?"


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Contact: Iqbal Pittalwala
iqbal@ucr.edu
951-827-6050
University of California - Riverside
Source:Eurekalert  

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