Think finding love as a human is tough? As a representative of males in modern society, Jay-Z and his numeration of problems has nothing on the male cricket.
We, at the very least, live another day to go home and play video games after a bum night. Here's why we should all be glad we're not dealing with cricket mating practices.
Sing for Your Love & Get Your Organs Melted
Sure, we all have mating rituals. But buying a drink or taking someone to a movie won't get you infested with parasites reminiscent of Taco Bell urban legends. The mating song of a male cricket makes them a prime target for Ormia ochracea, the face-hugger alien of the cricket world. O. ochracea, a parasitic fly, deposits live larvae in the male crickets singing their sexual song, with the larvae feeding on the non-essential organs of the cricket until it is time for the brood to depart their free room and board and enter the real world. The male cricket, an unwilling host who was only trying to get laid, dies. Poor guy.
If You Sing, You Make Future Crickets Larger and Sex Harder
Research has shown that juvenile male crickets subjected to an environment lacking typical environmental songs have a smaller body mass as adults, while juvenile males exposed to artificially constructed average male calling song grow larger and invest nearly 10 percent more reproductive tissue mass in their testes, an even larger proportional increase. Moral of the story – if you're a good cricket doing your job, you're singing, trying to procreate — and passively making future crickets larger and more virile. Every time you call out for love, you are making the competition stronger.
Cockblocked like a Bad Game of Halo by Larger Male Crickets (that you may have helped groom)
After all that singing, what does it get you? One tactic of larger male crickets looking to find a mate is not to sing at all. If a male doesn't sing, the problems of parasites and other predators like spiders, birds, and lizards are decreased. A large male cricket that chooses not to sing can then take this option — hang around a singing male and get mounted (yes, female crickets mount the males) by the lovely suitors that the singer worked so hard to attract. So, if you're a long-lived male cricket trying to procreate (the 40 Year-Old Virgin of the cricket dating scene), you could have one of the younger, larger crickets you helped influence jump in and have its way with the female you called.
Even After Mating, the Female can Toss Your Genetic Code to the Wind
Female crickets can hold onto the sperm from multiple male partners. Imagine your hypothetical mate keeping the genetic information from their last nine partners along with them at all times, and then deciding to pick some genes from ten years ago to spawn her child? That's insane. Seriously, I question my sanity for writing that line. Back to crickets. The female cricket, settling down after a polyamorous run about, then chooses which sperm to use to create a future generation of crickets. The amount of sperm stored by the female can be changed by movements in their abdominal muscles, with the goal of storage being to diversify the population by selecting for unrelated crickets. Female crickets, however, will still gladly mate with related crickets.
It's not just an early Weezer song anymore, it's the plight of the male cricket. So, the next time you're walking along in the summer and hear the white noise of what sounds like a million crickets, remember that they are the brave ones, with a legion standing behind every chirp, ready to take advantage of their hard work.
Author's note: The difficulties of being a male cricket conveyed here were synthesized across different cricket species. But still, paraphrasing Shawn Carter/Jay-Z, male crickets have 99 problems… this was just four of them.
Images from the AP, the University of Stirling, and the University of Illinois.