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'Sex on Six Legs' is focus of UC Riverside biologist's book
Date:7/20/2011

href="http://newsroom.ucr.edu/news_item.html?action=page&id=1418">her lab has researched in detail. The insect, she explains, is subject to a parasitoid fly that is drawn to the cricket by the latter's calling. The cricket calls because the more it does the more likely is he to mate with a female. But the same call also attracts the deadly parasitoid fly.

"The male cricket is, therefore, in a quandary," Zuk explains. "Recently, in one or two of the Hawai`ian islands, males have exhibited a mutation that inhibits their calling. This protects them from the parasitoid fly, but they need to adapt to increase their chances of mating with females. What we've found is that females become less choosey about which males they mate with, and males are more likely to hang around a cricket that can still call to improve their chances with females.

"What this teaches us is how behavior can interact with evolution, allowing for flexibility that then allows for the establishment of a permanent change such as genetic change," she adds. "Insects make us question virtually every assumption we have about what makes humans human. They lay bare the workings of evolution. What they allow us to do is take down behaviors to their minimal essentials, which can help us understand what is going on in the brain and in the genes."

Next project

Zuk is already at work on another book working title "Paleofantasy: How the Pace of Evolution Affects Our Lives" that focuses on how rapidly evolution can take place. While this work-in-progress does not focus heavily on insects, Zuk's research on what we can learn from insects continues to forge ahead at UC Riverside.

"I am intrigued by what keeps us coming back to insects again and again to use them in our studies," Zuk says. "What do we still find so fascinating hundreds of years after the early naturalists talked about and documented them?"

What's being said about "Sex on
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Contact: Iqbal Pittalwala
iqbal@ucr.edu
951-827-6050
University of California - Riverside
Source:Eurekalert  

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