Every June, fireflies light up the Smoky Mountains with their exuberant courtship displays – sure, it all seems very romantic. But a few years ago I spent some weeks with colleagues studying the predators that take advantage of these dense breeding aggregations. We knew that certain insectivores – like birds and lizards – avoid eating fireflies because they’re toxic. So we didn’t expect to find many predators enjoying this luminous feast. Little did we realize how gore-filled that summer would turn out to be!*
* You can read our Dark Side paper here: Lewis, S.M., L. Faust, and R. De Cock. 2012. The Dark Side of the Light Show: Predators of Fireflies in Great Smoky Mountains. Psyche, 634027.
Thrilled to announce that the Firefly Genome Project will soon start deciphering the genetic blueprint of the U.S. Big Dipper firefly, Photinus pyralis!
More than 80 people from many different countries helped us crowdfund this path-breaking scientific initiative by contributing & by spreading the word – thanks to all!
And another great thing is that we’ll be providing open access to the DNA sequence data, which we hope will inspire lots more exciting firefly science in the future.
You can learn more about the goals & progress of this collaborative project at Experiment.com.