What’s the News: In another glorious reminder of how weird nature really is, it’s time to get ready for the swarm: This May, after spending 13 years underground, huge populations of cicadas will emerge in the southern U.S. to molt, sing their riotous mating tunes, and breed. It’s a brief coda to their long adolescence in burrows 30 cm beneath the soil—by July, they will be dead, and their children will be beginning their years of exile from the surface.
What’s the Context:
While there are plenty of cicada species that send a generation to the surface every year, cyclical cicadas (of the genus Magicicada) come out en masse after 13 or 17 years. Scientists believe that this strategy evolved as a way to overwhelm predators—when there are so many cicadas around at one time, a good many of them will probably survive. Cyclical cicadas live in tribes called broods that occupy certain geographic areas (see map)—the brood that’s swarming this year, called brood XIX or the Great Southern Brood. It was last seen in 1998. (Go ahead, check the math.) Scientists have puzzled for decades over the fact that some …
After 13-Year Underground Adolescence, Billions of Cicadas Will Soon Burst Forth | 80beats
Thu, 05 May 2011 22:00:39 GMT