One firefly mystery solved, another needs your help

ff_scienceforcitizens_leafRecently, my pal at Live Science.com, Dave Brody, produced this video news piece about the results of a fascinating experiment involving fireflies.

Scientists at the University of Connecticut have discovered that males in a common species of fireflies synchronize their flashing patterns to attract females. In dense fields or woods, the mass, synchronized flashing patterns make it easier for females to spot and recognize this mating call. Females then mimic the pattern back to the males to signal an interest in mating.

“There have been lots of really good observations and hypotheses about firefly synchrony,” Andrew Moiseff of the University of Connecticut, lead author of the study, told Life’s Little Mysteries. “But until now, no one has experimentally tested whether synchrony has a function.”

Over at the Boston Museum of Science, researchers are calling on you to help them solve the mystery of the Photinus pyralis  (the j-shaped flasher) to understand why they seem to be increasingly attracted to urban street lights. Join their Firefly Watch and combine scientific research with an annual summer evening ritual!

Categories: Citizen Science, Insects, Nature & Outdoors

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About the Author

Darlene Cavalier

Darlene Cavalier

Darlene Cavalier is a Professor at Arizona State University's Center for Engagement and Training, part of the School for the Future of Innovation in Society. Cavalier is the founder of SciStarter. She is also the founder of Science Cheerleader, an organization of more than 300 current and former professional cheerleaders pursuing STEM careers, and a cofounder of ECAST: Expert and Citizen Assessment of Science and Technology, a network of universities, science centers, and think tanks that produces public deliberations to enhance science policymaking. She is a founding board member of the Citizen Science Association, a senior advisor at Discover Magazine, a member of the EPA's National Advisory Council for Environmental Policy and Technology, and was appointed to the National Academy of Sciences "Designing Citizen Science to Support Science Learning" committee. She is the author of The Science of Cheerleading and co-editor of The Rightful Place of Science: Citizen Science, published by Arizona State University. Darlene holds degrees from Temple University and the University of Pennsylvania and was a high school, college and NBA cheerleader. Darlene lives in Philadelphia with her husband and four children.