Invisible lines of connection run through all our lives, knitting them together. Those lines burned brightly for me yesterday, when I met John Buck’s daughter and grand-daughter.
Elisabeth & John fashion a firefly cage in Papua New Guinea.
The Bucks spent a lifetime together researching fireflies (and enjoyed other insects, too!)
John Buck (1913-2005) was a towering figure in firefly science. He dedicated his life to deciphering how these luminous creatures manage to control their flashes, aided in his research by Elisabeth, his wife of 65 years. Deeply fascinated by firefly synchrony, they traveled to Southeast Asia to study how thousands of males manage to match up their rhythms. Continue reading
Synchronous fireflies flare up in the news each June, just as the annual Smokies Light Show (described in Chapter 2: Lifestyles of the Stars) reaches its peak.Yet such cooperative behavior presents quite a scientific paradox!
Synchronous fireflies in the Great Smoky Mountains
Why should thousands of males so carefully coordinate their behavior to flash in unison, all of them marching to the beat of a single drummer. According to sexual selection theory, these males should be competing fiercely with each other for the chance to mate. So why synchronize?