Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Cicadian Rhythms: Why Does The 17-Year Cicada Emerge Like Clockwork?

Does your back yard look like this?
This swarm of periodical cicadas was photographed by Greg Hume at Wikimedia.
The 2013 Swarmageddon is here! After years of their absence, cicadas are overrunning parks, forests and communities all across the central-eastern United States. Periodical cicadas (from the genus Magicicada) are known for their synchronized emergence at 13- and 17-year intervals. Simply the fact that they can live this long is extraordinary: periodical cicadas have the longest life span of all insect species! But their precise 13- and 17-year emergence cycles have long been an evolutionary enigma.

Today I am over at Accumulating Glitches talking about periodical cicadas! I ponder questions like: How do periodical cicadas know when to emerge (and where are they before that)? How did different species living in the same regions get synchronized to the same cycle? And what evolutionary pressures led to life cycles that are precisely 13- and 17-years long?

Check it out here!

And to find out more, check these out:

1. Koenig, W., & Liebhold, A. (2013). Avian Predation Pressure as a Potential Driver of Periodical Cicada Cycle Length The American Naturalist, 181 (1), 145-149 DOI: 10.1086/668596

2. Koenig WD, Ries L, Olsen VB, & Liebhold AM (2011). Avian predators are less abundant during periodical cicada emergences, but why? Ecology, 92 (3), 784-90 PMID: 21608486

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