Scientists are now increasing the study of animals out in their natural habitat rather than the laboratory, and a new paper about crickets has just been published which changes our understanding of some of their behavior.
Male crickets impregnate females in the same way many other creatures do, by inseminating them. Afterwards, the males hang around the females for awhile, and until now it was believed that this was to keep other males away for a time until the sperm could reach the egg.
Now, in the wild, they have found a more correct explanation. Male crickets hang around afterward in order to protect the female they impregnated from danger. If danger approaches, the males emit a sound that alerts the female to hurry and rush into the burrow where all crickets live in safety. The male then waits outside until his female is safely inside. Then he goes in too.
It’s been found that female crickets protected in this way are six times more likely to survive a predator out for lunch than a female who is not protected. It also turns out that the male, staying out in the danger longer, is only four times as likely to survive than when he did not have to look after his female. Due to chivalry, sometimes, it costs him his life. [expand]
It occurs to me that this might help explain why, in our species, women live longer than men. When a couple hears a noise in the house at night, it’s the man who goes down to protect the family. On the Titanic, it was women and children first. Most of the men died. Most of the women survived. I could go on and on, but for those who say women suffer more than men—and this needs to be corrected—I say, as a man, it’s no fun to die on average six years before a woman does.
We miss so much, we men do. If a man dies in 2005, his woman lives to see George Bush get his second term, Barack Obama elected, Osama bin Laden killed, New Orleans win the Super Bowl, the Japanese suffer an earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown, Mayor Bloomberg win the election, the first commercial all-electric car come on the market, the rise of Lady Gaga, Facebook, Twitter and the smart phone, the overthrow of several dictators, the end of the American Space Shuttle Program, Spiderman on Broadway, High Def and 3D on TV and the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.
I’m not saying this is all good stuff. But it’s stuff. And the men who died in 2005 weren’t here to enjoy it. They even miss six more years of their grandchildren growing up. This is quite an injustice, if you ask me.
And yes, I am aware that 80% of the people killed by lightning are men. Dumb we are, determined to go out in a lightning storm. Dumber still, driving. Even so dumb we don’t complain about living six years less. Something’s got to be done about this.