Notes 5: Dreams of Flying

Into the Umwelt
The physiologist Jakob von Uexküll wrote a charming treatise exploring the sensory-perceptual worlds of different animals, as he explained and illustrated his concept of Umwelt (von Uexküll 1934). Healya and colleagues (2013) suggest that an organism’s perception of time depends on its size and metabolic rate, and find support for this idea using a phylogenetic comparison across different vertebrates.

Sexual Dimorphism
A deep exploration of anglerfish sex appears in an article by a world expert on such fish, Ted Pietsch (2005). South et al. (2011) reports our discovery that in fireflies, females’ flight ability is correlated with male nuptial gifts.

The King of Glow
The cultural association of St. John’s Eve with glowworms is described in Raphaël De Cock’s review of the biology and behavior of European fireflies (De Cock 2009). The biographical material in this chapter is based on interviews with Raphaël De Cock that I conducted in 2011 and 2013.

Raphaël De Cock’s studies on luminescence acting as a warning signal for toads are reported in De Cock & Matthysen (2003). De Cock & Matthysen (2005) present evidence that females in the lesser European glow-worms use pheromones to attract mates.

Ghostly Glows and Phantom Fumes
Frick-Ruppert & Rosen (2008) describe blue ghost natural history and behavior. The fairies quote is taken from an entry on the blog called Blue Ghost Post, about Bennie Lee Sinclair and Don Lewis’ Firefly Forest in South Carolina.

Blueghoster. Saints, Sanctuaries, and The Blue Ghosts. 6 April 2010.

The scientific report describing our blue ghost studies appears in De Cock et al. (2014). Dr. Somyot Silalom told me about the egg-guarding behavior of Lamprigera tenebrosus females. Studies on Rhagophthalmus ohbai, regarded as close kin to fireflies, recently reported that these bioluminescent, egg-guarding females release a volatile chemical that protects their eggs against attack by soil microbes (Hosoe 2014).

De Cock, R., L. Faust, and S.M. Lewis (2014). Courtship and mating in Phausis reticulata (Coleoptera: Lampyridae): Male flight behaviors, female glow displays, and male attraction to light traps. Florida Entomologist 97: 1290-1307.

Further Exploration

The Glow-Worm Song
You can enjoy “Glow Little Glow-Worm” as recorded by the Mills Brothers in 1952 on Youtube.

Sexual Dimorphism
This authorative book by Daphne Fairbairn, an evolutionary biologist at the University of California, Riverside, explores the causes and consequences of the vast size differences between the sexes in particular species, including elephant seals, garden spiders, barnacles, and anglerfish.

Fairbairn, D.J. 2013. Odd Couples: Extraordinary Differences Between the Sexes in the Animal Kingdom. Princeton University Press, NJ. 312 pages.

Matt Simon describes anglerfish sexual habits in a Wired article profusely illustrated with photographs (and a video) of dead fish.

Simon, M. (2013, Nov 8). Absurd creature of the week: the anglerfish and the absolute worst sex on Earth. Wired.

DuPont State Forest
The history of DuPont State Forest in North Carolina, located between Hendersonville and Brevard is described in this article. Formerly the site of a DuPont manufacturing facility, this state forest encompasses 4,200 hectares of preserved lands, and is a good spot to see blue ghost fireflies during May.

Summerville, D. August 2011. Southern Lights: Blue Ghost Fireflies. Our State: North Carolina.

More on Blue Ghost Fireflies
These two reports describe what we currently know about blue ghost fireflies. Our 2014 article contains a video of blue ghost mating behavior, included as supplementary material.

Frick-Ruppert, J. and J. Rosen (2008). Morphology and behavior of Phausis reticulata (Blue Ghost Firefly). Journal of North Carolina Academy of Science 124:139–147.

De Cock, R., L. Faust, and S.M. Lewis (2014). Courtship and mating in Phausis reticulata (Coleoptera: Lampyridae): Male flight behaviors, female glow displays, and male attraction to light traps. Florida Entomologist 97: 1290-1307.

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