Beetles, bottles, and enraptured togetherness

Robert Krulwich wrote an essay about the beetles/bottles discovery that resulted in the 2011 Ig Nobel biology prize. That prize was awarded to Darryl Gwynne (of CANADA and AUSTRALIA and the UK and the USA) and David Rentz (of AUSTRALIA and the USA) for discovering that a certain kind of beetle mates with a certain kind of Australian beer bottle. [Gwynne and Rentz published accounts of that discovery, in two papers: “Beetles on the Bottle: Male Buprestids Mistake Stubbies for Females (Coleoptera),” D.T. Gwynne, and D.C.F. Rentz, Journal of the Australian Entomological Society, vol. 22, , no. 1, 1983, pp. 79-80 — and “Beetles on the Bottle,” D.T. Gwynne and D.C.F. Rentz, Antenna: Proceedings (A) of the Royal Entomological Society London, vol. 8, no. 3, 1984, pp. 116-7.

Krulwich’s essay, under the headline “The Love That Dared Not Speak Its Name, Of A Beetle For A Beer Bottle”, includes this passage:

Looking even closer, they recognized it as an Australian jewel beetle, and looking closer, they noticed it had (as they wrote later) its “genitalia everted — attempting to insert the aedeagus,” which is a very polite way to say they were looking at a beetle attempting to mate with a glass container. Clearly, this was a very confused individual. But then they found three more stubby beer bottles, and on two of them, surprisingly, were more male beetles, also “mounting” their bottles. That makes three frustrated males. Hmmm. That got them interested. So

This BBC Plane Wild documentary looks, videographically, at the phenomenon:

the eminent scientist/blogger SciCurious attended the 2011 Ig Nobel Prize ceremony, where she interviewed the scientists who made the discovery. Read about it in her essay  called “IgNobel Prize WINNER: The beetle and the beer bottle, a tragic love story“.

Leave a Reply