strange behaviors

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  • Richard Conniff writes about behavior, in humans and other animals, on two, four, six, and eight legs, plus the occasional slither.

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Ancient Insects in Flagrante

Posted by Richard Conniff on November 7, 2013

Eternal love (Photo: Li S, Shih C, Wang C, Pang H, Ren D/Many Hands Snapshot Co.)

Eternal love (Photo: Li S, Shih C, Wang C, Pang H, Ren D/Many Hands Snapshot Co.)

People always say it’s a good way to go.   But I’m pretty sure this happy couple didn’t expect to be together for 165 million years.  Hmm.  Yeah, it starts with casual sex and next you know you’ve been married forever.

Also, unusually for insects, they seem to be making the two-backed beast. I was thinking this was just an artifact of being buried in mud halfway through the act.  But apparently froghopper insects still do it this way.

Here’s the press release:

Scientists have found the oldest fossil depicting copulating insects in northeastern China, published November 6th in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Dong Ren and colleagues at the Capital Normal University in China.

Fossil records of mating insects are fairly sparse, and therefore our current knowledge of mating position and genitalia orientation in the early stages of evolution is rather limited.

In this study, the authors present a fossil of a pair of copulating froghoppers, a type of small insect that hops from plant to plant much like tiny frogs. The well-preserved fossil of these two froghoppers showed belly-to-belly mating position and depicts the male reproductive organ inserting into the female copulatory structure.

This is the earliest record of copulating insects to date, and suggests that froghoppers’ genital symmetry and mating position have remained static for over 165 million years. Ren adds, “We found these two very rare copulating froghoppers which provide a glimpse of interesting insect behavior and important data to understand their mating position and genitalia orientation during the Middle Jurassic.”

Shu Li, Chungkun Shih, Chen Wang, Hong Pang, Dong Ren. Forever Love: The Hitherto Earliest Record of Copulating Insects from the Middle Jurassic of China. PLoS ONE, 2013; 8 (11): e78188 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0078188

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