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Humans cannot match moth's sex tactics

A small brown moth has one of the most complex sex lives in the insect world, showing human courtship behaviour at times, a new research has found.



London: A small brown moth has one of the most complex sex lives in the insect world, showing human courtship behaviour at times, a new research has found.

"The love life of the gold swift moth (Phymatopus hecta) is a veritable Kama Sutra of mating patterns and positions," said professor John Turner, professor emeritus at the University of Leeds' school of biology.

Turner identified an array of different courtship "dances," with some individuals able to switch to alternative methods if their first gambits were frustrated.

The female hangs from the foliage, emits a scent and mates with one of the males that arrive. This is a classic moth mating pattern.

The male also hangs from the foliage, the female flies to him and they mate.

A group of males form a hovering swarm. Females fly past and males fly out of the swarm to follow them. When the female lands by hanging under a leaf, a male lands next to her and mates.

The team also saw a mutual courtship dance where a female flies up to a hovering male and they "dance" in the air together.

The male hangs from foliage and a female flies in and hangs some distance away, fanning her wings to propel scent toward him.

The male tends to show no interest until the female flies over to "nudge" him.

He then flies off and returns to mate with her.

Turner also found frequent "fighting dances" between males and occasional "homoerotic" courtships where males embarked on mating procedures with members of their own sex.

"I intervened on some occasions to stop the mating. The insects would pause and then resume using a different pattern. It started to look a bit like a human courtship, with the moths doing it every which way and having a whole range of tactics for attracting a mate," Turner pointed out.

The study was published in the Biological Journal of the Linnean Society.

 

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