Gwynne and Rentz determined that the males were attracted only to stubbies not to beer cans or wine bottles of a slightly different shade of brown. And it wasn't the bottles' contents that captured their attention: "Not only do western Australians never dispose of a beer bottle with beer still in it, but many of the bottles had sand and detritus accumulated over many months," the research paper notes.
Beer and sex humour aside, the research has serious messages, Gwynne says. First, when humans interfere perhaps unwittingly in an evolutionary process, there can be unintended consequences; in this case, female beetles are ignored by males which can have a huge impact on the natural world. "Improperly disposed of beer bottles not only present a physical and 'visual' hazard in the environment, but also could potentially cause great interference with the mating system of a beetle species," the paper says. To that end, Gwynne forwarded research results to a leading western Australian brewer.
And secondly, Gwynne points out that the research supports the theory of sexual selection: that males, in their eagerness to mate, are the ones that make mating mistakes.
Gwynne conducted his research as a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Western Australia in Nedlands. He joined U of T Mississauga in 1987. The research was published in the journal of the Entomological Society of Australia and the U.K.-based journal, Antenna.
|Contact: Jane Stirling|
University of Toronto