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Beetles keeping it bottled-up

By Dave Armstrong - 30 Sep 2011 16:17:5 GMT
Beetles keeping it bottled-up

The resemblance of a beer bottle to a female has been mooted in the past, but rarely remembered the morning after. An Australian (beetle) has now confirmed that "stubbies" are better! The University of Mississauga has been known for many things, but this takes the biscuit, at least. Prof. Darryl Gwynne, from the Toronto University, and David Rentz have achieved the "Ig-Nobel" Prize for their efforts, 23 years ago when they were young and - in Western Australia.

The serious consequences of human interference on natural systems is soon understood when this research is read. The male Buprestid (jewel) beetle, Julodimorpha bakewelli, is often noticed lolling around near brown beer bottles (stubbies) in Australia. The average passer-by would assume the obvious, but our intrepid Nobel Prize-winners delved deeper into the apparent alcoholism. It doesn't say much for the female beetle's appearance, but the male seems little bothered by the beer.

He thinks the bottle looks like a mate, and he's not alone. Many male beetles gathered around the bottles, which were scattered on and around roads. The shine of the glass exactly mimicked the "jewel" appearance of the females elytra (wing cases). Looking at it empirically, the heat of the sun killed many, predatory ants were quick to attack and mating was curtailed. The ultimate danger of course lies in this fatal attraction for a profitless task. None of his genes can survive his generation if this male doesn't mate with a female. Worse, the bottles are so attractive as "super-female" candidates that the real females could miss out. In an endangered species, the outcome would be serious, though it seems this beetle is fairly common at present.

Immediately below is the bottle-brown female, (apologies for image quality) with a very similar colour to the bottle. It is to be hoped that the brewery reacted well to a request from Prof Gwynne at the time. He asked for a colour change, but doesn't note if he received a reply for that special request!

Here is the bottle-brown female, with a very similar colour to the bottle. It is to be hoped that the brewery reacted well to a request from Prof Gwynne at the time. He asked for a colour change, but doesn't note if he received a reply for that special request!

Image: Illustration of a female Australian jewel beetle (Julodimorpha bakewelli)

And here is her ex-boyfriend (below), a lighter brown, for obvious reasons, and looking a little embarrassed, don't you think?

And here are her ex-boyfriends, a lighter brown, for obvious reasons, and looking a little embarrassed, don't you think?

A male Australian jewel beetle attempts to mate with a "stubby" beer bottle; Credit: Darryl Gwynne

Top Image Credit: © bratan

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Topics: Insects