Evolution of fireflies

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    • #17333

      I have very little formal education in biology and, in truth, limited interest in the subject, but occasionally a particular aspect of it grabs my attention. In this instance that aspect is fireflies.

      As I understand it, the characteristics developed, through mutation and evolution, by any species are those that give it a competitive advantage in the struggle for existence. On various trips to Italy I have seen fireflies flashing away in the evening, this being, apparently, an aid to mating and reproduction. The more I think about this characteristic, the odder it seems. I don’t know if the flashing behaviour arose as one enormous change or by a series of minor steps. In either case, to become effective as a mating ploy, it would have required a simultaneous development of recognition and attraction to the flashing behaviour. It seems inconceivable to me that the the development of flashing and the devlopment of attraction to it should have arisen simultaneously, with no advantage on either side until both processes were complete. Can anyone explain this to me, please?

    • #113795

      That’s just like with any other sexual behaviour.

    • #113917

      It could have come about by the stranger effect. This is seen in fruitflies and basically is the odd fly (due to a mutation) is the most attractive to the other sex. Any behavior that increased fitness would be selected for, regardless of much else.

      Also think about bright red male cardinals – they stand out to predators, so it is extremely bad to be bright red. However, the brightest red males attract the most females, so it doesn’t matter if they live shorter lives if they leave more babies behind!

    • #113918

      I grew up in Illinois and we used to have tons of fireflies at night. Now, with all of the pesticides being used, there are none. Nor are there many nighthawks or whip-or-wills. It’s very disappointing….

      Anyway, it is common for people to look at the end product and wonder how it got that way without thinking about all the intermediate steps needed to get there. I’m not an entomologist but I suspect that this began as simply the males flashing a brightly-colored part of their body (abdomen?). There are advantages for insects to be active at night, since there are fewer predators, so an individual that could show his bright abdomen at night (or dusk) would be able to attract mates for a longer period and may have avoided daylight predators. Then, as with many of these kinds of traits, an arms race developed – the brightest lights attracted the most females.

      And, with any successful trait, there may be others that take advantage of them. There are actually predatory fireflies that imitate the flash pattern of other fireflies – attracting them to their death. Evolution is fascinating!

    • #114290

      This is an old post, But it caught me for a few and I found this

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