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Why Crickets Just Won’t Shut Up | Deep Look Video

July 25, 2020

Male crickets play tunes non-stop to woo a mate or keep enemies away. But they’re not playing their song with the body part you’re thinking.

Ask most people about crickets and you’ll probably hear that they’re all pretty much the same: just little insects that jump and chirp.

But there are actually dozens of different species of field crickets in the U.S. And because they look so similar, the most common way scientists tell them apart is by the sounds they make.

“When I hear an evening chorus, all I hear are the different species,” said David Weissman, a research associate in entomology at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco.

Weissman has spent the last 45 years working to identify all the species of field crickets west of the Mississippi River. In December, he published his findings in the journal Zootaxa, identifying 35 species of field crickets in the western states, including 17 new species. California alone hosts 12 species. But many closely resemble the others. So even for one of the nation’s top experts, telling them apart isn’t a simple task.

“It turns out song is a good way to differentiate,” Weissman said.

This is another installment of the PBS Deep Look series. If no film or link appears in this email, go to the blog to view it by clicking on the blog title above. If the film stops & starts in an annoying manner, press pause (lower left double bars ||) to let it buffer and get ahead of you.   [Chuck Almdale]

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