Get access

Lekking in Gryllotalpa major, the Prairie Mole Cricket (Insecta: Gryllotalpidae)


Peggy S. M. Hill, Faculty of Biological Science, University of Tulsa, Tulsa, OK 74104, USA. E-mail: BIOL—


Gryllotalpa major is a rare, burrowing insect native to the tallgrass prairie of the south-central United States and is known to exhibit ‘lek-like’ behavior during mating. Here I report on a study carried out in the field that demonstrates that the prairie mole cricket meets all criteria defining a classical lekking species. Males construct specialized acoustic burrows from which they call to attract females for mating. I show that these burrows, which seem to serve no purpose other than for sexual advertisement and mating, are aggregated spatially on at least three scalar levels. Females fly through the aggregation of burrows and drop to the ground in the vicinity of calling males, and are, thus, not constrained in choosing a mate. Females enter the males’ acoustic burrows, but I argue that the burrows are not used as oviposition sites, and that the males do not otherwise sequester resources important to females. Although the term ‘lek’ is useful for the discussion of mating systems, its definition remains ambiguous. I discuss the current usage of the term and suggest extensions.