Five years ago, this blog was born. In 2013, I wrote a grand total of two posts and received 21 visitors – not stellar for promoting conservation and an appreciation of biodiversity. But the number of posts and visitors have grown over the years… this site has now been viewed over 15,000 times! I can’t thank you enough.
Here’s a brief look back at the “top” posts:
- First post: “Carapace Cornucopia” (one of my favorite paintings)
- Most-viewed post: “Penis Bone – No Joke” … yes, that is the top-performing post. 🙂
- Month with highest number of views: September 2015 (2.5k) thanks to Scientific American blog, Symbiartic, and my students’ amazing work
- Thanks, Philippines! Visitors from the #2 country of origin like the folktale of the Firefly and the Apes.
- My favorite post: Springtime Symbiosis
- Most enjoyable science paper to read: Signs of Spring
- Cutest model (tie): Who’s in My House? and Purring Predators
- Smelliest model: Corpse Flower Opens – And Stinks
Thanks for visiting, and for all the encouragement and positive comments!
An old Philippine folktale pits a firefly against a troop of apes. One day, an ape asks the firefly why he carries a lantern. The firefly replies that he uses the light to see mosquitoes and defend himself. The ape laughs and calls the firefly a coward. Insulted, the insect challenges the ape (and all his friends) to a fight. The next day, the firefly faces 1000 apes with large clubs, all lined up against him. The firefly lands on the first ape’s nose and the second ape swings his club to squash the insect. But the lightning bug flits away and the ape’s blow kills his companion instead. Then the firefly alights on the second ape’s nose. A club is swung and the second ape is dead. On and on until the firefly reaches the last ape, who piteously surrenders. The folktale ends, “Since that time, the apes have been in mortal terror of the fireflies.” (1)
Despite folktales consistently portraying apes as fools, we all know they’re actually pretty smart. The Philippine tale is one account of why apes avoid fireflies. But could there be a biological reason for this aversion? Maybe it’s because fireflies are noxious.
One firefly can kill a bearded dragon (Pogona sp.), a fairly large lizard that can grow up to 2 feet long (2). For mammals like apes, well, they probably just taste really bad. Most animals that eat fireflies spit them out or throw them up.
Fireflies do try to warn their would-be attackers through their coloration. Light and dark stripes and red markings are examples of aposematic coloration – both are found on this lightning bug. Don’t say he didn’t warn you!
- Millington, WH and BL Maxfield. 1907. Visayan Folk-Tales. Journal of American Folklore. 20(79) 311-318.
- Knight, M et al. 1999. Firefly Toxicosis in Lizards. Journal of Chemical Ecology. 25(9)