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Last Updated: Friday, 27 May, 2005, 10:12 GMT 11:12 UK
Alpine cricket is 'rough lover'
Crickets mating, University of Derby
The team would like to know how the cricket avoids inter-species liaisons
A species of Alpine cricket has proved itself to be an uncharming lothario who can mate every 18 seconds, European scientists report.

While most crickets serenade their lady friends before making a move, this particular species is somewhat brutish, often causing injury during sex.

Anonconotus alpinus will sneak up on any passing female, clamping her violently with his sharp pincers.

What is more, he is ready for action again after only seconds of rest.

The work was conducted by a team of researchers from the Universities of Derby and Geneva.

Males seem to be highly unselective when it comes to mating
Karim Vahed, University of Derby
"The alpinus species of Anonconotus has a completely different approach to the mating process to the majority of bush crickets as it is far more aggressive," said Karim Vahed of the University of Derby.

Unfussy stallion

Not only are other crickets rather more gentlemanly in their approach, they also often take days to recover after copulation, making alpinus the "stallion" of the insect world.

However, there is a bit of a mystery behind alpinus' reproductive success. Most crickets sing to their "lovers" before mating, which is how they avoid copulating with the wrong species: female crickets simply do not fancy males who sing a foreign song.

"Pre-copulatory song usually acts as a barrier to cross-species mating because females aren't attracted to the song of another species," explained Dr Vahed.

But alpinus males do not bother with any such formalities: they will apparently leap on any unsuspecting cricket - male or female - without introduction.

So Dr Vahed and his colleague Gilles Carron would like to spend more time in the alps working out just how alpinus avoids wasting time and energy on inter-species liaisons.

"[We would like to find out] what happens in areas of the mountains when two of the Anonconotus species are in contact," said Dr Vahed. "The reason why this is particularly interesting is that males seem to be highly unselective when it comes to mating."

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