Finding that special someone to have children with can be a difficult undertaking for humans, but for many insects the struggle to find a mate never stops. The insect world is full of different strategies for winning a mate. Some insects, like crickets and cicadas, will chirp loudly in order to gather the attention of females. As far as humans are concerned, these chirping sounds amount to nothing more than unpleasant noise, but for insects these sounds are like sweet serenades. In order for some insects to successfully pass on their genes, their mating songs must reach females. This can be a problem for male insects that are extremely small. For example, tree crickets win over their female mates by singing in a way that is similar to cicadas. Unfortunately, the male tree cricket’s minute size does not allow for their songs to be heard over long distances. Male tree crickets often sing, but their sounds are not loud enough to be heard by females. At some point in evolutionary history male tree crickets developed a clever trick to amplify the sound of their mating songs. This trick basically consists of creating a bullhorn out of a leaf.
Male tree crickets create their songs by rubbing their wings together. During this process males will increase the volume of their songs by constructing what is referred to as a “baffle”. These inventive insects will take a regular leaf from a tree, then they will proceed to poke a hole into the center of the leaf. After the hole is made, the male tree cricket slides its body into the hole, and then begins to flap its wings frantically. The flapping of the wings directly above the surface of the leaf amplifies the mating songs produced by the males. To put it simply, male tree crickets use the leaf as a sort of megaphone to get their songs heard by females.
A group of researchers recently studied how these insects choose their leaves when making their sound amplifiers. Male tree crickets always choose the largest leaf that they can find in order to maximize the volume of their songs. And of course they always make the holes as close to the leaf’s center as they possibly can. This process is one of the most intelligent insect behaviors that researchers have ever witnessed.
Do you think that there exists numerous other insect species that are capable of seemingly intelligent and complicated activities?
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