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Quiet, please: Human noise is interfering with the sex lives of grasshoppers


by Vanessa Couldridge, The Conversation
Grasshoppers have a bad reputation. They're not popular with gardeners And locusts, a type of swarming grasshopper, can do huge damage to vegetation and crops when they're in a feeding frenzy.

But more often than not, grasshoppers have more to fear from humans than the other way around. As we increasingly encroach on their habitats, we are making a lasting imprint on the insects. There is even a chance that we may be negatively affecting their behaviors, their reproduction and their very evolution.

This is a problem because of the central role insects play in food webs, as both predators and prey, and in the nutrient cycle. They consume nutrients in the soil and later provide nutrients when they die and decompose. There's even growing global interest in grasshoppers as a source of protein for humans. The insects have been eaten for centuries in parts of Africa.

One way that humans impose on grasshoppers is through noise. It's long been known that anthropogenic noise—the many sounds generated by humans and all our activities—change the way that birdsfrogs and mammals communicate with each other. Noise can have widespread negative consequences for animals, such as interfering with their feeding, mating and parental care behavior, increasing their predation risk and increasing their physiological stress.

Grasshoppers have not been spared. A small body of research has recorded how grasshoppers have had to, for instance, modulate their courtship signals to be heard above the human din.

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