Evolution at work: Crickets on Molokai are now ... purring
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Scientists studying crickets on Molokai stumbled across a pretty incredible discovery recently, which they detailed in a new journal article.
The upshot: Some crickets on the island are now purring.
The new songs being made by male Pacific field crickets on Molokai to attract their mates are different from any sounds made by a known cricket.
And the purring left the researchers, from the University of Denver, downright smitten with the little guys.
“Our discovery of purring male crickets is an unprecedented opportunity to watch the emergence of a newly evolved sexual signal unfold in real time,” the team wrote in their journal article, which appears in the latest issue of The American Naturalist.
It “has potential to illuminate the mechanisms by which evolutionary novelties arise and co-evolve between the sexes.”
Robin Tinghitella, lead author of the study, told Newsweek that when she heard the purring noise coming from crickets she’d collected, she was flabbergasted.
“This is like if lions never had manes and they all suddenly got manes. Or if peacocks never had tails with bright, colored plumes all over them and then suddenly had giant tails,” she said.
So why are the so-called “crick-cats” now purring instead of chirping? That’s not yet known, but one hypothesis is that the crickets evolved to purr because it was more effective in attracting potential love interests.
Meanwhile, the team is continuing its research.
They’ve launched a Kickstarter to help fund their work. In it, they said the discovery of the purring cricket “allows us to ask fundamental questions about how diversity is created and maintained.”
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