length does matter

A study by biologists at Tufts University has found that female fireflies prefer males with longer-lasting flashes. It seems that a longer flash is related to the quality of the “nuptial gift” he can give to his mate, report Sara Lewis and Christopher Cratsley in the January-February issue of Behavioral Ecology. When fireflies mate, not only do males give the females their sperm, but they also provide a spermatophore, a high-protein nutritional package that females eat and use to provide for their offspring. By measuring the duration of a male’s flashes and comparing them to spermatophore size, the researchers discovered that the length of a male firefly’s flash can predict the quality of the nuptial gift he can deliver.

This news brief appeared in the Random Data column of the Boston Globe’s Health/Science section on 4/22/2003.
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