Sept 21, 2006 (ScienceNOW) – Somewhere in Hawaii, a population of crickets has grown eerily silent. The culprit? Evolution. To avoid detection by a parasitic fly, the insects have–over only 20 generations–developed wings that don’t chirp. But the silence has its downside: The muted males can no longer catch the attention of potential mates…

That’s an amazingly fast change, says evolutionary biologist William Cade of the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, Canada. Still, whether this struggle for survival will allow the flies and crickets to coexist peacefully or end in mutual annihilation is anyone’s guess. The flies have grown to depend on the crickets, but the male crickets are having a harder and harder time finding a mate. Evolutionary biologist Darryl Gwynne of the University of Toronto at Mississauga says he’s waiting “with baited breath to see what evolution is going to give us.”

“With baited breath” indeed. This may be an example of evolution (if you define it broadly enough), but I cannot see how an insect losing its ability to chirp can be considered all that interesting to an evolutionist. This mutation has obviously decreased the informational content within this cricket’s genome, and it’s paying the price. As Spetner said, assuming this type of change leads to evolution from microbe to man “would be like the merchant who lost a little money on each sale, but thought he could make it up on volume.”

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