Marlene Zuk: What we learn from insects' sex lives
Marlene Zuk - Evolutionary biologist
Marlene Zuk studies insect behavior -- and how humans use animal behavior to think about how we behave ourselves. Full bio
than they are of dying.
"Book of Lists" survey
worst, funniest lists that you see today.
as sources of fear.
spiders in there,
would have just topped the chart.
of the greatest minds in science,
some of the smallest minds on Earth.
coming back to insects?
magnitude of almost everything about them.
than any other kind of animal.
of insects there are,
are being discovered all the time.
maybe as many as 10 million.
an insect-of-the-month calendar
for over 80,000 years.
that 1 out of every 3 bites of food
of our nervous systems
about our own behavior.
everything that people do.
they fight, they break up.
like love or animosity.
different than what drives our own,
can be really illuminating.
of our most consuming interests -- sex.
and I think I can defend,
interesting than sex in people.
some of our own assumptions
to have sex at all to reproduce.
of themselves without ever mating.
interesting than human sperm.
than the male's own body.
use their sperm to compete.
like the horns on these beetles.
after mating with their sperm.
that look kind of like Swiss Army knives
that the female has mated with.
of us imitating them
an example for us to follow.
is probably just as well.
is rampant among insects?
that we humans have about the sex roles.
dictates kind of a 1950s sitcom version
supposed to be dominant and aggressive,
about who they mate with,
sperm during mating,
something called a nuptial gift.
mating in these photos.
the male's the one on the right,
is the female's egg-laying organ.
this from his own body
of his body mass.
and let you think about
every time they had sex,
that weighed 50, 60, 70 pounds.
to do that very often.
these nuptial gifts to.
during and after mating.
the better off the male is,
and fertilize her eggs.
are very passive about mating,
are extremely aggressive and competitive,
nutritious nuptial gifts as they can.
a stereotypical set of rules.
in the lives of a lot of insects.
the bees and wasps and ants --
to your sugar bowl,
from flower to flower --
their head around that idea for millennia.
a class of bees, the drones,
of the drones' laziness
the drones just hang around the hive
in gathering nectar or pollen.
the drones' sex,
were aware of the stinging ability of bees
could possibly be a female.
individuals are going to be the males ..."
because that would have meant
of the young in a colony,
that would be completely impossible.
bees had the organs of both sexes
some animals do that,
did get it figured out.
my students, for instance,
including insects, a male.
that the ferocious army-ant soldiers
used to defend the colony,
Antz, Bee Movie --
in the social insects as being male.
if they talk like Jerry Seinfeld?
is part of a much deeper one
for medicine and health
use what we call model systems,
white rats or fruit flies --
for all other animals, including people.
that what's true for a person
that turns out to be the case.
of a model system too far.
as though they are the model system.
after you get the basics down.
what was in front of them.
stage was largely occupied by male players
minor, walk-on roles.
on a lot of what nature is like.
natural, living things, including people,
as models in a lot of medical research,
to both men and women.
I really love about insects
find unnerving about them.
the way we normally think of it.
but they lack complicated brains.
as though they're little people
the way that we do.
to anthropomorphize insects,
like they're little people
on their own terms,
what's normal and what's natural.
and talk about parallel universes.
walking among us.
why they want to dabble in the paranormal.
About the speaker:Marlene Zuk - Evolutionary biologist
Marlene Zuk studies insect behavior -- and how humans use animal behavior to think about how we behave ourselves.
Why you should listen
Marlene Zuk is a biologist and writer who researches animal behavior and evolution, mostly using insects as subjects. Zuk is interested in the ways that people use animal behavior to think about human behavior, and vice versa, as well as in the public's understanding of evolution. She teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior at the University of Minnesota -- including a seminar called “What’s the Alternative to Alternative Medicine?”
In addition to publishing numerous scientific articles, Zuk has published four books for a general audience: Sexual Selections: What We Can and Can’t Learn About Sex from Animals; Riddled with Life: Friendly Worms, Ladybug Sex, and the Parasites That Make Us Who We Are; Sex on Six Legs: Lessons on Life, Love and Language from the Insect World; and most recently, Paleofantasy: What Evolution Really Tells Us About Sex, Diet and the Way We Live.
Marlene Zuk | Speaker | TED.com