Extreme measures

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Robin Andrews, "Female Dragonflies Fake Their Deaths To Avoid Annoying Males", IFL Science 4/28/2017:

So, you’re in a bar, or on a bus, or grabbing a coffee, something like that – and that guy that kept grinning at you like a deranged werewolf decides to saunter on over, say hello, and strike up a highly unwanted flirtatious conversation. No matter how many hints you drop, he persists in trying to win you over – so what do you do?

Well, you could always take a cue from female dragonflies, who have come up with a rather effective way off putting off overly aggressive male suitors. When push comes to shove, they plummet to the ground, spasm around a bit, then play dead.

Writing in the journal Ecology, Rassim Khelifa – an entomologist from the University of Zurich with a penchant for the hovering critters – describes this as an “extreme sexual conflict resolution,” which we suppose is fair enough. Desperate times call for desperate measures, though.

Julia Preseau, who send in the link, commented that

I at first thought the female dragonflies did not want to annoy the male dragonflies ;-)

The cited research paper is Rassim Khelifa, "Faking death to avoid male coercion: extreme sexual conflict resolution in a dragonfly", Ecology April 2017.

This reminded me of a passage from Helen DeWitt's remarkable novel The Last Samurai:

Liberace talked on and on and on. Gradually as we drank more drinks Liberace talked more and more and more and asked more and more if he was boring me, and as a result it seemed less and less possible to leave, because if he wasn’t boring me why would I want to leave?

Then I thought, there must be some other way not to listen to all this, and of course there was a way. Surely Liberace had brought me back here to pick me up. It would be rude to put a hand over his mouth, but if I were to put my mouth on his mouth this would stop him talking just as well without being rude. His eyes were large, a clear glass green, rimmed with black like the eyes of a nocturnal animal; it seemed as though, if I only kissed him, not only would I not have to listen to him, but I would somehow be closer to the animal with these beautiful eyes.

He said something, and paused, and before he could say anything else I kissed him and there was a sudden, wonderful silence. It was silent except for the silly little laugh of Liberace, but once he had laughed it was over whereas there was no end to his conversation.

I was still drunk, and I was still trying to think of things I could do without being unpardonably rude. Well, I thought, I could sleep with him without being rude, and so I responded in a suitable manner as he unbuttoned the buttons of my dress. This was a terrible mistake.



  1. Michael said,

    May 2, 2017 @ 11:31 am

    I had assumed that this would be a discussion of the crash blossom headline: Why would female dragonflies go to such lengths in order to not annoy males?

  2. KeithB said,

    May 2, 2017 @ 12:16 pm

    Is that *the* Liberace? I don't see him unbuttoning a woman's dress.

  3. mg said,

    May 2, 2017 @ 4:59 pm

    @Michael – if you've read any of the stories of women stabbed or shot because they said no to men trying to pick them up, you'll understand why females will go to extremes to avoid annoying males. :(

  4. mg said,

    May 2, 2017 @ 5:00 pm

    @Michael – if you've read any of the stories of women stabbed or shot because they said no to men trying to pick them up, you'll understand why females will go to extremes to avoid annoying males. :(

  5. Rose Eneri said,

    May 3, 2017 @ 9:02 am

    I too assumed the speaker in the Last Samurai excerpt was a man until I got to the dress. Of course it still could be, but that's not how I was picturing the scene.

  6. Na-Rae Han said,

    May 5, 2017 @ 7:24 pm

    I have faked not knowing English: "sori, no spiik engrishi". It is very effective, and I do not regret deploying it. I understand this option is not available to everyone in America.

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