Lab group's discovery of purring crickets leads to real-time investigation of rapid evolution
Last summer, while on a research excursion to the Hawaiian island of Moloka'i, ecology and evolution professor Dr. Robin Tinghitella and her colleagues identified a newly-evolved, novel characteristic in a group of Pacific field crickets (Teleogryllus oceanicus). Male crickets are singing a brand new song.
Until recently, the Tinghitella lab's research has been focused on a sub-group of T. oceanicus that lost the ability to sing to attract mates. Last year, they discovered a new signal ("purring" songs) that launches their research into unknown territory while they turn their attention to the implications. "We are now able to track how evolution will shape a brand new sexually-selected characteristic over real time," said Tinghitella. The group, including a former post-doc, graduate students and two undergraduates, will return to the island this December for further data collection.