It seems that scientists are learning new things about insects everyday. Some of these discoveries may be boring to average Joes with no interest in insects or spiders. But sometimes there is an insect-related story that nobody can avoid reading, or being curious about. One recent cricket study that was described in National Geographic Magazine caught the attention and curiosity of many lazy internet surfers. Apparently, entomologists have tracked down the species that carries the largest sperm-producing organs of all animals, relative to body size, of course. Researchers used to be under the impression that a species of fruit fly known as Drosophila bifurca possessed the largest testicles of any organism on earth. But now a tuberous bushcricket, which is a type of katydid, has been found with testicles that seem too large to be anatomically possible. This may sound like nothing more than an interesting fact to remember, but this bushcricket’s anatomy is raising many questions about basic invertebrate’s sexual physiology and behavior.
This bushcricket’s sperm-producing organs account for fourteen percent of its body mass. According to Karim Vahed, a behavioral ecologist, the size of the insect’s testicles left him amazed, and he noted that the organs took up the entire area of the insect’s abdomen. However, researchers have been confused by the tuberous bushcricket’s sexual response. Typically, animals with larger sperm-producing organs also produce greater amounts of sperm. This gives large-testicled organisms an advantage as females are more likely to become fertilized by males that produce higher volumes of sperm. But this is not the case with the tuberous bushcricket. For these insects, larger testicle size means less sperm for fertilization. The researchers guessed that the female tuberous bush crickets may be more promiscuous than most other insects, which would result in a greater amount of large-testicled males in the population. It has sometimes been noted that higher mating rates result in larger testicle sizes. Tuberous bushcrickets probably just mate more often than most animals.
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