Journal of Insect Behavior

, Volume 8, Issue 3, pp 381-394

First online:

The occurrence of synchrony in the North American fireflyPhotinus carolinus (Coleoptera: Lampyridae)

  • Jonathan CopelandAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, Georgia Southern University, LB-8042
  • , Andrew MoiseffAffiliated withDepartment of Physiology and Neurobiology, University of Connecticut

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Synchronous flashing has been described for some Southeast Asian fireflies but has rarely been reported in North American fireflies. Our field observations indicated thatPhotinus carolinus flash synchronously. The flash pattern of individualP. carolinus was characterized by a burst of five to eight flashes over a period of approximately 4 s. These flash bursts were repeated about every 12 s. Groups of fireflies comprised individuals exhibiting this species-specific flash pattern. Remarkably, members of the group flashed synchronously: Flash bursts started and stopped at the same time and the flashes among individuals occurred at the same time as well. We used low-light level videography to examine this behavior in caged groups of (3 or 10) fireflies for synchronic flashing. The occurrence of concurrent rhythmic group flashing satisfies the criteria for synchrony as defined by Buck (1988). The intermittent nature of the bursts of flashes shown byP. carolinus makes this a discontinuous synchrony. The mechanisms underlying discontinuous synchrony are not known.

Key words

firefly synchrony oscillator luminesence