In Brief

Gender-Bending Bugs Avoid Stabbing Sex

There ain't nothing pretty about the sex lives of two species of Tahitian insects: The males inject sperm by stabbing females in the abdomen. Sometimes (or always?) the act can cause injury, and occasionally infection. So the females of the species Coridromius tahitiensis and Coridromius taravao may have figured out a way to lessen their chances of being on the receiving end of this "traumatic insemination" — by mimicking males.

Females of both species displayed the distinctive coloring and hairy patches characteristic of male C. tahitiensis. In the case of C. taravao, the gambit appears to be aimed at reducing the chances of unwanted interspecies breeding attempts, according to Nature News.

This is the first evidence of this kind of gender-bending, cross-species mimicry, Gregory Holwell, a biologist at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, told Nature News.

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Douglas Main
Douglas Main loves the weird and wonderful world of science, digging into amazing Planet Earth discoveries and wacky animal findings (from marsupials mating themselves to death to zombie worms to tear-drinking butterflies) for Live Science. Follow Doug on Google+.