Katydid — or didn't — get turned on. That's what University of Missouri researchers Johannes Schul and Oliver Beckers set out to discern when they examined how female katydids respond to mating calls. The scientists found that the big green bugs — which are related to crickets — prefer faster mating calls in summer and slower calls in winter. A dabbler in mating calls our ownself, Unreal tracked down Schul.
Unreal: Tell us, how do you measure the arousal of a katydid?
Professor Johannes Schul: It's simple, really. We put a female katydid on a treadmill. Then we play the recorded mating call from a male. If she's interested in the call, she'll walk quickly on the treadmill toward the sound. If not, she might just walk in circles or just groom herself.
How often are katydids doing it?
We don't really know. Many insects mate just once in their lifetime. Some mate every two or three nights. Our study looked primarily at how temperature shaped their calls.
Is it sort of like seducing a woman with the music of Barry White versus Rick James? In the winter they like a slower, sensual beat. In August they just want it funky and fast?
That might be worth a try, but we weren't really concerned with human mating habits. We are interested in how communication systems change and new traits evolve.
How did the katydid get its name? Is it because — entomologically speaking — the female of the species is so darn promiscuous? Katy did him, and him and she did him, too?
No, no, no. In most English-speaking countries, they're called bush crickets. Only in the United States are they called katydids. The urban myth is that their calls sound like "katy did, katy didn't, katy did, katy didn't."
Stop it! We're getting excited! So, what's next?
I think we're going to look at whether the female forces the male to change his call or vice-versa. The goal is to better understand their behavioral and neurological traits.
Dress to Depress
"100 years ago," a press release for the second annual Saint Louis Fashion Week proclaims, "St. Louis was a worldwide fashion capitol." But as Fashion Week 2008 kicks off, even the hippest hometown designer must admit that these days St. Louis style isn't exactly on par with Milan and Paris. In fact, the average St. Louisan would be hard pressed to distinguish between a bottle of BORBA Skin Balance Water (one of Fashion Week's sponsors) and a Budweiser Select.
Still, the Lou has seen a style renaissance of late, with ambitious young designers trying to put St. Louis back on the global fashion map. Regardless of whether they succeed, Unreal agrees with the slogan of STL-Style, purveyors of the "Highway Farty" T-shirt: You can't spell style without "STL."
In that spirit we present an abridged history of St. Louis fashion, from its peak to its present state.
1904: The World's Fair. According to mohistory.org, fashion at the fair "was a mark of status, and at the time of the Fair people believed in dressing appropriately for every occasion, which could mean changing clothes several times in a day."
It was downhill from here.
January 1956: Elvis Presley releases "Heartbreak Hotel," effectively spawning the rockabilly genre. The tremors from this earthquake are still felt locally today, in the form of well-worn leather jackets, bowling shirts and over-oiled pompadours.
August 2003: Nelly introduces Apple Bottoms, jeans that specialize in "Liberating the natural curves of a woman's body." Oprah, whose natural curves fluctuate weekly, soon endorses the product. T-Pain eventually croons about "Apple Bottom Jeans and them boots with the fur."
September 2007: St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay appears in Esquire clad in a $4,900 Domenico Vacca suit. Men's Wearhouse withdraws its long-running endorsement and cuts campaign contributions to the man who once was the clothier's best customer.
January 2008: St. Louis T-shirt makers Rina Wear, known for their Cardinals fandom and sponsorship of Al Hrabosky's bar near Busch Stadium, introduce their 2008 line. Slogans range from the cute and clever "Yadi's a hottie" to the, um, not so cute "I'd rather my sister be a prostitute than a Cubs fan."
March 16, 2008: Kimora Lee Simmons, St. Louis native and fashion mogul, kicks off Fashion Week 2008. She is presented with a key to the city by Mayor Slay, who proclaims it to be "Kimora Day" in St. Louis. Unreal's campaign to inaugurate "Jorts & Mandals Day" is placed on hiatus.
That's Le Pew to You
Dom Durbin had a pet skunk. Her name was Penelope, and she was a wedding gift from Dom's brother, who bought her from a breeder in Indiana. But when Dom and his bride, Beth, who live in Farina, Illinois, took Penelope to a vet to be spayed, they discovered that in Illinois, it's illegal to keep a skunk as a pet. (In Missouri, too.) The Durbins sent Penelope to a nice home in Ohio, but Dom has been lobbying Illinois lawmakers to change the state's wildlife code ever since.
Unreal: Enough about you, Dom. Tell us about Penelope.
Dom Durbin: She liked to play tug of war. She took all my son's boxer shorts out of the laundry one time and used them for bedding in her room.
Wait. Skunks build nests? And they have their own rooms?
Sort of, yeah. They use a blanket, that type of thing, and fluff it up. We gave her half a walk-in closet.
What did she eat?
Pretty much the same thing you or I would eat, if we actually followed our doctor's recommendations: fruits and vegetables, light meat, easy on the dairy products.
You cooked for the skunk?
To give 'em the best diet, yeah, you do have to cook for 'em. It got us eating broccoli a lot more.
Quite the princess, that Penelope. Was she smart?
Very. If you wanted to be a skunk owner, you would probably have to put a latch on your refrigerator door, because a skunk will figure out how to open it.
Sounds high-maintenance. Why would you want one?
They send the cute meter through the roof.