Evolutionary and Behavioural Ecology Research Group

Glow-worm research team

Studying glow-worm reproductive behaviour

Sexual selection is a powerful evolutionary force that can alter the speed of evolution, speciation and even the risk of extinction. Human-induced environmental changes may alter sexual selection - with dramatic consequences.

Sexual selection on males is widely studied, but still little is known about how sexual selection operates on females. Strong sexual signals produced by females are uncommon in nature because production and maintaining these signals is costly, and males (the sex that invests less in offspring) are expected to carry this cost. How female mate attraction and the evolution of female ornaments differs from that of males are largely unstudied.

In the common European glow-worm (Lampyris noctiluca; Lampyridae) wingless females attract males by glowing, and males fly in search of females. Due to female mate attraction, the common glow-worm is an excellent candidate species to study female ornaments and sexual selection.

Our main topics of interest:

1. How do males find and choose females in a light-polluted environment?

We will test male ability to see and select a female in different light conditions. Mate attraction is based on visibility, and light pollution might force females to increase their signaling effort and cause difficulties for males that are trying to find a female. We assess the effect of light pollution on species distribution.

2. What affects female glowing?

We will test if there is a trade-off between glowing and laying eggs. Females are incapable of eating as adults so glowing should decrease their fecundity.

3. Do females compete for attracting males by glowing?

We will see if females use glowing as a competitive weapon against each other. Our preliminary results show that a bright female can attract a disproportionate amount of males leaving other females without mates.

Team members

Professor Arja Kaitala, team leader

Adjunct Professor Ulrika Candolin (Helsinki, not in picture)

Juhani Hopkins M.Sc, Ph.D. student

Gautier Baudry M.Sc. Ph.D. student


Hopkins, J. P., Baudry, G., Candolin, U. & Kaitala, A. Iím sexy and I glow it: Female ornamentation in a nocturnal capital breeder. Biol. Lett. 11.

Contact information

The team can be contacted at the Zoological museum of Oulu
University of Oulu
Department of Biology
P.O. Box 3000
FI-90014 University of Oulu
E-mail: firstname.lastname@oulu.fi

For contact regarding the homepage please send an email to Juhani Hopkins

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