Glow-worms top image

Glowworms are larvae of insects that have bioluminescence. Arachnocampa are a type of glowworm that lives mostly in New Zealand and Australia and in its adult form resembles a mosquito.

In their larval stage, Arachnocampa glowworms are predatory and highly aggressive. They live in the ceilings of caves where they craft sticky silk traps and produce light that lures prey to their certain death. They are so aggressive and territorial that they end up cannibalizing their larvae neighbors.

Adults are poor fliers and live only for a few days with the sole purpose of mating. They have degenerate mouth parts and therefore don't feed. After mating (and laying eggs in the case of the females) they mostly die of starvation. However, there is the suggestion that, since food is a scarce resource in caves, adults actually sacrifice themselves to feed the young.

This theory is puzzling because the adults don't live long enough to offer themselves as food for their own young. So, if anyone benefits from this suicide, it is the offspring of others. How, then, can this behavior be advantageous evolutionarily?

Suzanne Sadedin and myself are proposing a model to explain this phenomenon as a selective force acting at the level of caves, instead of individuals.

This article is currently in its final stages of preparation.

About Me

Edgar Edgar A. Duéñez Guzmán is a Senior Research Engineer at DeepMind. Previously he was at Google, where he developed the first machine learning system to select the index for Image Search. During his academic career, he was a Postdoctoral fellow at the Department of Biology at KU Leuven working with Tom Wenseleers in social evolution in microbes;
and a Research Associate at the Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University working with David Haig in social evolution and imprinting.
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E-mail: eaduenez {at} gmail {dot} com