Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Sex in a Changing World

Frogs have to adjust their calls in order to be heard in noisy urban environment

Frogs have to adjust their calls in order to be heard in noisy urban environments. Credit: Matt Clancy Wildlife Photography (CC BY 2.0)

By Bob Wong

Sex isn’t always easy, but it’s becoming a lot more complicated due to human-induced changes to the natural environment.

Bob Wong is a Senior Lecturer at Monash University’s School of Biological Sciences.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

Nestled near the mouth of the Irwin River, some 350 km north of Perth, lies the tiny coastal community of Dongara – the self-proclaimed rock lobster capital of Australia.

Three decades ago, in bushland just outside of town, it was an altogether different kind of creature that attracted the attention of scientists: male beetles (Julodimorpha bakewelli) had developed a sexual predilection for discarded beer bottles. The beetles were drawn to the shiny brown surface and textured patterns of the empty stubbies, which bear a striking resemblance to the shiny brown elytra, or hardened forewing, of female beetles (except beer bottles are substantially larger, and therefore sexier, than actual females). So persistent were the male beetles’ attempts at copulating with the empty bottles that some were falling prey to predatory ants biting at the soft portions of their genitalia.

While bottle-loving beetles may, at first, seem a little amusing, such behaviours highlight the challenges of sex in an increasingly human-altered world.

The Quest for Sex

Securing a suitable mate, even at the best of times, can pose a significant challenge for sexually­ reproducing organisms. Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species described it as a sexual struggle arising from intense competition among individuals for the opportunity to mate. This struggle is so powerful...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.