"The greatest amount of life can be supported by great diversification of structure." Charles Darwin

Friday, January 9, 2015

When insects learn math...

"2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13, 17, 19, 23, ..." It is obvious to us that these are primer numbers, which are greater than 1 and have no positive divisors other than 1 and themselves, although it is quite amazing that some insects have also learnt about prime numbers, and have been using this knowledge for their own adaptive advantage in the challenging natural environments.

Periodical cicadas, also known as magicicadas, are insects native to North America under the order of Hemiptera. Unlike other cicadas, periodical cicadas spend a very long larval developmental stage underground feeding on xylem sap from plant roots, and only emerge every 13 or 17 years as adults in large quantity. Adults live only for a few weeks. They mate, lay eggs, and their their life cycle is then complete. It was thought that by adopting an emergence period of a prime number (13 or 17), periodical cicadas avoid the possibility of potential predators receiving periodic population boosts by synchronizing their own generations to divisors of the cicada emergence period. The molecular basis for the precise life periodicity in these periodical cicadas remains a mystery.

Magicicada septendecim


Massive number of periodical cicadas emerged in Massachusetts in 2008

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