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      Oooh this is pretty

      Right now my favourite thing with this is to turn the distance way down and the clock speed up a bit. Seem to get interesting patterns that way, with waves bouncing.

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      What is the evolutionary advantage of synchronized flashing?

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        In firefly mating rituals, the males cruise by, flying around and flashing their signals to let the ladies know that they are looking for love.

        Meanwhile, female fireflies wait in the leaves, observing the males’ flashes. Each waits for a specific pattern of blinking light sequences are unique to each species. When they spot a pattern that they like, they flash the same signal back at the male as an invitation to come on over.

        Scientists estimate that, of the roughly 2,000 species of fireflies around the world, only about 1 percent synchronize their flashes in large groups. However, flashing Photinus fireflies are very common, especially in North America. They evolved to flash in synchronizing patterns as a solution to specific behavioral, environmental or physiological conditions, said Moiseff.

        Synchronous species of fireflies are often found in high densities, making it hard for female fireflies to see and register a lone male firefly’s signal. This suggests that there is a problem in the female’s information processing, which group synchronized flashing seems to compensate for, according to the study.

        But once a female sees the mass synchronized signal and responds, how does she decide who in the group is to be her paramour?

        “In the field, under natural conditions, we find that a responding female Photinus carolinus attracted several males,” Moiseff told Life’s Little Mysteries. “These males then cluster around her and interact among each other, as well as with the female.”

        Researchers do not know whether the female’s initial response is directed at a single male within the synchronous group, or whether she is responding nonspecifically to the group as a whole. But because her response flash attracts many males, it appears that she isn’t communicating with any individual male, Moiseff said.

        “Ultimately, however, she selected a single male to mate with,” Moiseff added. “The effect of this is that female choice is occurring separately from initial species recognition and attraction.”

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        I’d be interested to know that too… although it may simply be that there is no evolutionary disadvantage to it and that’s why the behaviour has continued.

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        You get a much brighter flash? I assume a single firefly is flashing with some kind of purpose (it’s a mating display for at least one species), so a bigger flash should be better.

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          You get a bright collective flash, but how are you going to attract mates towards yourself? That’s what I find puzzling.

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            If they’re able to attract mates from a much larger radius, then more of them will come, so perhaps everybody is better off.

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            Yeah, this suggests that flashing as a mating signal is limited to bringing potential mates into proximity. After that, flashing must not be a strong attractor, or synchronization would be strongly penalized. I’m guessing the synchronization is driven more by safety in numbers from predators.

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      I love this as an idea for an intro to distributed computing lesson, something about clock sync.

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      art and science. can’t say no to that.