Most springtails and silverfish reproduce sexually. This means sperm meets egg in order to achieve fertilization. This is unlike some other hexapods, like bees and aphids, which sometimes use asexual reproductive tactics like cloning.
So do all sexually reproductive hexapods “do it like they do on the Discovery Channel”? No. Sexual reproduction is broken into two distinct behaviors: DIRECT sperm transfer and INDIRECT sperm transfer.
Direct sperm transfer is where sperm meets egg during the physical act of copulation usually involving the joining of genitalia. Lots of insects engage this way. Indirect sperm transfer is where a packet of sperm is laid on the ground or presented to a female outside the body. The female must make contact with it in order for fertilization to occur. For springtails and silverfish, it’s all about males getting females into the right position.
In this video we teach about indirect sperm transfer behaviors of these arthropods, in a slightly different way than other entomologists. Our way involves costumes. And mustaches. Enjoy!
If you’re interested in learning more about the sexual lives of insects, check out a book that lots of entomologists love. Six-Legged Sex: The Erotic Lives of Bugs by James K. Wangberg. It’s the official bugdork’s pick for a great Friday night read.
This video is an excerpt of longer work created for Texas A&M University’s Department of Entomology.
This post was originally published on Science Friday.