why doesn’t she throw the bum out?

Some women just give and give to the men in their lives, never getting anything but the fuzzy end of the lollipop in return. And so do the females of the semi-aquatic insect species known as the Zeus bug. In contrast to most other animal species, where males give the females nuptial gifts of food as a form of “paternal investment” in their eventual offspring, the female Zeus bug provides tasty morsels for the male during mating, report researchers in the July 24 issue of Nature. A male Zeus bug is smaller than a female, and rides upon her back, mating, and eating secretions produced from a special gland near her head for up to a week. Goran Arnqvist of the University of Uppsala in Sweden and colleagues found that the food-giving is not necessary to ensure a regular sperm supply, so why does the female allow herself to be used in this manner? One of the paper’s authors, Mark Elgar of the department of zoology at Australia’s University of Melbourne, , stated in a press release: “A constant stream of suitors wanting to participate in a polygamous free-for-all could possibly lead to greater harassment, leading to the female expending more energy and placing herself at greater risk than if she doted on just the one man.”

This news brief appeared in the Random Data column of the Boston Globe’s Health/Science section on 7/29/2003.
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