Beetles Mating with Beer Bottles

Biologists Dwayne Gwynne and David Rentz were out looking for insects in Australia when they observed Australian jewel beetles on small brown beer bottles called "stubbies." The beetles were trying to mate with the bottles! But they weren't drunk -they were just doing what nature told them to do.  

The answer became obvious when they got a close look at a female Australian jewel beetle. Females, as it happens, are golden brown. They are big — much bigger than the males. But most important, they are covered, as you see here, with dimples, little bumps.

Australian beer bottles at the time (this happened in the 1980s) were also big, also golden brown, and down near the base they also had little bumps, arrayed very much like the bumps on a female jewel beetle.

Clearly, Gwynne and Rentz wrote in their paper, the males were unable to distinguish between beer bottles and lady beetles. They thought — or rather their inner wiring told them — they were mating.

This is what biologists call "an evolutionary trap." It's what happens when birds, turtles, moths, beetles, all kinds of animals, wired to respond to certain cues in nature, bump instead into human inventions and get confused. They try to do the right thing — like having a little baby beetle, and end up spending hours scraping glass.

The post by Robert Krulwich at NPR gives other examples of how man (or man-made objects) interferes with nature in way we didn't foresee -and what happened after the mistakes were discovered. Bonus video of beetle/bottle sex. Link -via Not Exactly Rocket Science

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