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Project: Exaggerated morphology, metabolism and behavior of the flag-legged bug (Anisoscelis alipes) 

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Project title

Exaggerated morphology, metabolism and behavior of the flag-legged bug (Anisoscelis alipes)

Mentor name

Ummat Somjee


Gamboa, Panama

Project summary and objectives

The major goal of this project is to understand complex behavior displays of an insect, the flag-legged bug (Anisoscelis alipes). These insects have very large colorful tibia on their hind legs. They use these exaggerated traits in a ‘waving’ flag display. To develop a deeper understanding of these traits and behavior, we will catch insects from the forest, rear insects in the greenhouses, video-tape and analyze their behavior using appropriately designed experiments. The intern will be involved in planting and growing plants, rearing insects, and working with other interns to design and implement experiments. Insect behavior will be videotaped in experimental cages, these videos will be analyzed using behavior analysis software and data will be extracted and organized. Morphology measurements, color measurement and metabolic measurements will also be conducted by students after sufficient training. Students will be encouraged to focus on project aspects that motivate them, and project mentor will guide them through writing and basic data analysis.

Mentorship goals

Mentor Goals and Intern benefits:

  • The intern will be highly involved in all parts of project implementation. Students will gain experience in hypotheses development and experimental design. In addition, students will gain expertise in identifying specific insect groups, rearing, handling, marking and measuring insects. I highly encourage students who are motivated to implement their own ideas and be part of the paper writing process. Specific outcomes will include training to use programs for analyzing behavioral video recordings (BORIS), morphology measurements (ImageJ), data management and analysis (Excel and R). Students are encouraged to participate in writing workshops and to present their part of the project at the STRI behavior discussion group at the end of the internship. I will also be motivated to write letters of recommendation, continue to keep students involved in the publication process and help them seek avenues to build their experience in science research.
  • Intern will be trained in insect rearing, setting up experiments and data collection and curation. This will require a 3-month commitment. Students will be encouraged to present their work at the behavior discussion group, but will also be encouraged to be involved in outreach efforts if they are motivated to do so. (Sept-November)

List of suggested readings

Somjee, U., Arthur Woods, H., Duell, M. & Miller, C.W. (2018) The hidden cost of sexually selected traits: The metabolic expense of maintaining a sexually selected weapon. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 285, 1891.

Milner, R.N.C., Jennions, M.D. & Backwell, P.R.Y. (2012) Keeping up appearances: Male fiddler crabs wave faster in a crowd. Biology Letters, 8, 176–178.

Contact information

Provide us with your contact information to learn more about this opportunity. Tell us a bit about yourself and why are you interested in this project. By filling out this form I understand this is NOT an application for an internship at STRI.

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