Contrary to popular belief that chivalry – which is long dead and gone – is a trait only held by humans, new research has shown that some insects apparently put the lives of their mating partners ahead of their own.
When a mated pair of crickets is out together, a male will allow a female priority access to the safety of a burrow, even though it means a dramatic increase in his own risk of being eaten, scientists say.
“Many people probably think that ‘chivalrous’ behaviour is exclusive of humans or closely related mammals, linking it in some way to education, intelligence, or affection,” said Rolando Rodríguez-Muñoz of the University of Exeter.
“We show that even males of small insects, which we would not define as intelligent or affective, can be ‘chivalrous’ or protective with their partners,” he added.
The results are contrary to the usual interpretation of male guarding behaviour as an attempt to manipulate females and prevent them from mating with rivals.
However, the male crickets in this case are rewarded for their risky behaviour, as their extended stays with females win them more offspring.
The researchers suspect that the degree of chivalrous behaviour among males should vary depending on factors such as the size of the cricket and predator populations.
The study has been published online in the Cell Press journal Current Biology.