Tag Archives: Photinus pyralis

💕+ ☠️ +💀 = Firefly Sex, Toxins & Death

This latest firefly story from the folks over at KQED’s Deep Look has just about everything: sparkling romance, hidden poisons, and deadly deceit. As the famous firefly biologist Jim Lloyd once said about these North American Photuris femmes fatales, “If these were the size of house cats, people would be afraid to go outside at night.”
Watch it, then watch out!

 

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Shedding More Light on Firefly Sex

Natural selection is based on the struggle for survival, but sexual selection is driven by the struggle for reproductive opportunity. And sexual selection turns out to be quite a powerful evolutionary force – it’s the reason we can enjoy such melodious birdsong,  extravagant peacock tails,  gigantic deer antlers, and such spectacular firefly flashes!

We know that fireflies give bioluminescent courtship signals, but firefly sex goes way beyond flashing. While mating, many male fireflies give the female a spermatophore, which is an elaborate, sperm-containing package. This firefly “nuptial gift” represents a hefty male investment that’s entirely home-made: it takes several glands to manufacture each gift. Until recently, though, we’ve been largely in the dark about the composition of these mysterious gifts.

firefly gift and mating

Some firefly males give nuptial gifts (they’re actually really tiny)

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Launching the Firefly Genome!

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.