Researchers Find Synchronous Flashing Helps Female Fireflies Recognize Suitable Mates

Posted on July 14, 2011

In some firefly species the bioluminescent flashing between males occurs synchronically. Scientists estimate that only about 1 percent synchronize their flashes over large areas. New research has found that the purpose of this synchronous flashing - which sometimes lights up a whole forest at once - is to help female fireflies recognize suitable mates.

UConn's Andrew Moiseff and Jonathan Copeland of Georgia Southern University conducted a study of synchrony in the North American firefly, Photinus carolinus, which lives in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. In a unique lab experiment (where small blinking lights were used to mimic male fireflies), researchers found that females responded to an average of 82% of synchronous flashes compared with as few as 3% of asynchronous flashes.

In the research published in Science magazine, the researchers concluded that one function of flash synchrony is to "facilitate a female's ability to recognize her conspecific male's flashing by eliminating potential visual clutter from other flashing males."

You can read more about how the research was conducted and the findings here on uconn.edu. Take a look:


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