Male Photuris Fireflies Mimic Sexual Signals of Their Females' Prey

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Science  07 Nov 1980:
Vol. 210, Issue 4470, pp. 669-671
DOI: 10.1126/science.210.4470.669


Photuris males emit flashed signals matching those of unrelated sympatric forms (Photinus and Pyractomena species). Some have only one flash pattern matching that of another species, others mimic at least two species, as well as emitting "their own" species-specific pattern. They tend to restrict the mimicking signals, but not their own, to the habitats, seasons, and daily periods of the mimicked species. Since Photuris females prey on males of other firefly species by mimicking their females' flashes, the Photuris males may be using their mimicry to locate and seduce their own hunting females. This mimicry is without known parallel in other animal communicative systems. It explains why the genus Photuris has been a frustrating mystery to taxonomists, who have long used flash patterns to distinguish sibling species in other genera.

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