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Crickets on Mute: Hush falls as killer fly stalks singers

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1:03pm, September 20, 2006

Within just 5 years, singing has nearly died out among a population of cricket on a Hawaiian island, researchers report.

A mutation for silence has spread so fast because an invasion of deadly flies finds male crickets to attack by following their chirps, says Marlene Zuk of the University of California, Riverside.

However, female crickets also listen for chirps to find the males, so a guy who can't sing has a problem. The mute males seem to be coping, at least temporarily, by clustering around the few remaining chirpers, Zuk and her colleagues report in the Dec. 22 Biology Letters.

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