It was a case of a besotted male and beer. Love-sick and lonely, the male girded his loins and took immediate action to relieve his unhappiness but with a surprising outcome, as a U of T Mississauga professor discovered.
The male in question, an Australian jewel beetle (Julodimorpha bakewelli), became so enamored with a brown "stubby" beer bottle that he tried to mate with it so vigorously that he died trying to copulate in the hot sun rather than leave willingly, says Professor Darryl Gwynne of biology, an international expert in behavioural ecology, specifically the evolution of reproductive behaviour.
Today, Gwynne and his Australian colleague David Rentz were awarded an Ig Nobel Prize at Harvard University for their 1983 paper "Beetles on the Bottle: Male Buprestids Mistake Stubbies for Females." The Ig Nobel Prizes, a parody of the Nobel Prizes, are awarded annually by the scientific humour magazine Annals of Improbable Research to "first make people laugh and then make them think." The prizes are intended to celebrate the unusual, honour the imaginative and spur people's interest in science, medicine and technology.
"I'm honoured, I think," Gwynne says, with a smile on his face. "The awards make people think, and they're a bit of a laugh. Really, we've been sitting here by the phone for the past 20 plus years waiting for the call. Why did it take them so long?"
Gwynne and Rentz were conducting field work in Western Australia 23 years ago when they noticed something unusual along the side of the road. "We were walking along a dirt road with the usual scattering of beer cans and bottles when we saw about six bottles with beetles on top or crawling up the side. It was clear the beetles were trying to mate with the bottles."
The bottles stubbies as they are known in Australia resemble a "super female" jewel beetle, Gwynne says: big and orangey brown in colour, with a slightly dimpled surface near
|Contact: Jane Stirling|
University of Toronto