(Images: University of Toronto Mississauga)
Besotted beetles are dying while trying to get it on with discarded brown beer bottles, according to research conducted by Darryl Gwynne, a University of Toronto Mississauga professor.
It's a case of mistaken attraction, because the beer bottles happen to possess all of the features that drive male Australian jewel beetles wild. They're big and orangey brown in color, with a slightly dimpled surface near the bottom (designed to prevent the bottle from slipping out of one's grasp) that reflects light in much the same way as female wing covers.
As a result, the beer bottles are irresistible to the male insects, which will die trying to mate with them in the hot Australian sun.
Gwynne made these observations with colleague David Rentz. This week they were awarded with an Ig Nobel Prize at Harvard University.
The Ig Nobel Prizes, a parody of the Nobel Prizes, are awarded annually by the scientific humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research to "first make people laugh and then make them think." The prizes are intended to celebrate the unusual, honor the imaginative, and spur people's interest in science, medicine and technology.
"I'm honored, I think," Gwynne, who is a professor of biology, was quoted as saying in a press release. "Really, we've been sitting here by the phone for the past 20-plus years waiting for the call. Why did it take them so long?"
Gwynne and Rentz were conducting fieldwork in western Australia when they noticed something unusual along the side of the road.