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ScienceShot: The Way to a Cricket's Heart

Male Hawaiian swordtail crickets (Laupala cerasina) know how to get their women in the mood. As part of courtship, they sing, rub antennae with their partner, and create small "nuptial gifts" from their own secretions for the female to eat. After several hours of wooing, the male inserts a large capsule made of sperm into the female's reproductive tract, which she drains to fertilize herself. So why the elaborate ritual? In an experiment, female crickets given gifts prior to mating took up about one and a half times more sperm than those who received none, finds a paper in this month's Animal Behaviour. Nuptial gifts are common among insects, though previous studies focused on females weeding out stingy, and therefore less desirable, males. The recent results suggests that the male's offerings prime females to accept sperm, a novel function for these little presents.