firefly paper - Reprinted from Science August 6 1965 Vol...

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Reprinted from Science, August 6, 1965, Vol. 149, No. 3684, pages 653-654 Aggressive Mimicry in Photuris: Firefly Femmes Fatales Abstract. Firefly females of the genus Photuris, long known to be carnivorous, attract and devour males of the genus Photinus by mimicking the flash-responses of Photinus females. Although suspected, this behavior had not been observed previously. While observing firefly behavior, several naturalists have noted that females of the genus Photuris are carnivorous. Many, including myself, have discovered this by trying to keep groups of fireflies alive overnight in the same container. In the morning one usually finds one Photuris female and bits and pieces of all the rest. Barber (1) observed Photuris females in spider webs eating glowing fireflies that had been captured and wrapped by spiders. He also observed courting males of the genus Photinus receiving flashed responses from perched Photuris females. He asked: “Does she lure him to serve as her repast?” During the past three summers while working in the field on flash-communication in the firefly genus Photinus, I have made several observations which have a bearing on Barber’s question. In order to study the flash-communicative systems of fireflies it is essential to have females of the species being studied. Unfortunately, these are usually at a premium. An hour or two of searching may yield but one, more frequently none. The best method is to walk about the area flashing a pocket flashlight in a manner which simulates the flash-pattern of the males of that particular species. Although in competition with dozens or hundreds of male fireflies, the flashlight will often draw flash- responses from females 6 to 12 m away, while male fireflies are seldom answered at distances greater than 3 m. While searching
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