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Sneaky little giraffe weevils beat big rivals

A little stealth helps smaller males compete with big ones to mate with a female

By
6:45am, September 25, 2014
giraffe weevils

STEATH MOVE  Big male giraffe weevils (top) can lose out to smaller males (middle) that sneak underneath to mate with females (bottom). Dots of paint help researchers identify individual weevils.

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You might think a male giraffe weevil, or a male anything for that matter, would object to a rival creeping between his legs when he’s mating.

But creeping sneaks get away with outrageous stunts among New Zealand’s giraffe weevils (Lasiorhynchus barbicornis). Christina Painting at the University of Auckland remembers the first big male weevil she watched, an 80-millimeter bruiser standing possessively over a female for more than an hour. “He moved away — I guess to have a rest — and I realized the whole time there had been a tiny, tiny male underneath him waiting for the opportunity to mate.”

A sneaker can hide even while he mates. “He’ll rotate himself around and tuck his long [snout] underneath the female,” Painting says. “Often they quite happily keep mating” when a big male arrives and repeatedly fumbles to get into position

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