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Thursday, 8 January 2009

Hello mate...


We all know what weird and wacky extent some people will go to in order to get in the mood for loooove! Some women like to dress up in sexy undies, prepare a candlelit dinner for two, while the man buys his lady some erotic underwear and brings home flowers, chocolate, and some wine. But compared to the animal kingdom, this is all very tame indeed!

Today we learn that mosquitoes have an elaborate courtship that involves singing sexy songs to each other. In fact, unbeknown to scientists, mosquitoes have their own individual flight tone. This is a bit like an aircraft shooting by and before the sonic boom hits your ears, you can tell that it's (a) a helicopter, (b) jumbo jet, or (c) the miniature toy remote controlled aircraft your brother got for Christmas!

According to an article on today's BBC News website, 'This love song is a "harmonic", or multiple, of their individual frequencies - 400 Hz for the female and 600 Hz for the male.' In other words, when the two mosquitoes finally get close enough to each other which signals that they are potential love partners, their wings flap together in synchronicity and as the old saying goes they 'make music together!'

Whilst this is intriguing in that it helps us humans better understand our malaria spreading friends, it spells disaster for the species, especially the dengue fever and malaria carrying variety, Aedes Aegypti and Anopheles Gambiae. The reason for this is simple. If we know how they mate, we can develop ways to interfere with that mating process and ultimately either destroy the species altogether, or at least help introduce a new strain of mosquitoes that would be relatively benign towards us humans.

One way to do that is the following, as James Morgan, Science reporter for the BBC News says, 'By creating sterile males, and releasing them into the wild, females can be tricked into mating with a partner who will bear them no offspring. If enough of these sterile insects are released over a long enough period, then in theory, the target population would decline.'

Another way to lessen the negative impact of mosquitoes is to release a large amount of those which have been genetically engineered into the wild so that they cannot transmit dengue virus. However this presents a problem in that the females will probably notice that the strapping hunk of a mozzy before her, the 'creme de la creme' of his species is not quite 'firing on all cylinders'; does not quite have as much 'lead in his pencil' as first imagined. As Professor Harrington of Cornell University, a co-author on the paper says, 'Oh, they know. Believe me, they know "We see the female kicking out at the altered male, and after a while, he loses interest.'

Here's a list of my other favourite mating rituals that deserve a 'mention in despatches':

Flying straight in at number 5 in this week's charts is...

5. Sea Hares- Three’s company
Sea hares (or sea slugs) are hermaphrodites; they have a penis on one side of the head, a vagina on the other. That said, threesomes, and even chains of more, are quite common. In a threesome, a “male” would attach his penis to the vagina of the middle hare, and a “female” would attach with the middle hare’s penis. The middle one is simply the go-between, passing the sperm through to the other. (wikipedia.com)

Moving up to 4th place in this week's charts is...

4. Patient Penguins
According to canongate.net, penguins are quite monogamous. When penguins fall in love, the ‘tuxedo-clad’ couple stand breast to breast with their heads thrown back, singing loudly with outstretched, trembling flippers. Two weeks later, the male shows his urge by laying his head upon his partner's stomach. The two then find a secluded spot for an actual intercourse process of three minutes. One and done, neither penguin will mate again that year. (Must be a north pole thing. Just like Santa- only comes once a year!)

Moving down to 11th place in this week's charts is...

11. Praying Mantis- Getting Head. Literally.
The female praying mantis not only will rip the head off her mate after sex, but sometimes she will eat it during the act. Despite losing his head, he is usually able to finish the deed. I‘d assume this is why the mantis pray, at least the males anyway! (dribbleglass.com)

And my favourite...entering (sorry 'coming in') at number...1

1. Hippos- Taking care of business
Homemade aromatherapy? Hippos attract mates by marking territory - urinating and defecating simultaneously. Then, states canongate.net, the hippo twirls its tail like a propeller, spreading his mess everywhere - irresistible to the opposite sex. Once a mate is found, the pair begin foreplay, consisting of splashing around in the water (there's nothing like taking a a quick shower together before getting down to 'business'). Remember this next time your significant other knocks on the bathroom door while you are letting off a few rounds: he she may not be intent on having a Number Two; rather, they could just be turned on.

1 comment:

cos67 aka costick67 aka cosine67 said...

hey Tom
Great stuff. You're turning into a really good nature writer. The best mating story I've heard is the black widow spider. The male, which is one-tenth the size of the female is usually eaten after the dirty business is done. Hence the name.
Your next story should be the dying off of the honey bees. It's a major catastrophe in the offing. Einstein said we've got four years of life without them. Saw a docum on tv here. I was trained as a beekeeper by my father-in-law, by the way. It's a cool hobby.