For That Zeus Bug in Your Life


Here are some last-minute gift ideas to suit even the most discriminating individuals on your list.

For the female scorpionfly: an extremely large, glittering, nutrient-laced ball of spit, equivalent to 5 percent to 10 percent of a male fly’s body mass. Gentlemen: Too worn down by the holidays to cough up such an expensive package? Try giving her a dead insect instead. You can always steal it back later.

For the male Zeus bug: a monthlong excursion aboard the luxury liner that is the much larger female’s back, with its scooped-out seat tailored to his dimensions and a pair of dorsal glands to supply the passenger with all the proteinaceous wax he can swallow.

For the bonobo you’ve just met: half your food, at least. Just shovel it over. Sharing is fun!

For the bonobos you’ve known your whole life: Eh, maybe nothing this year. It’s not like they’ll stop being your friend if you “forget” to toss them a banana.

We may denounce the hyper-consumerism of the Christmas season until we’re Hanukkah blue in the face, but much of our economy relies on the strength of the gift-giving impulse, and with good reason: The drive to exchange presents is ancient, transcultural and by no means limited to Homo sapiens. Researchers have found striking examples of gift-giving across the phyletic landscape, in insects, spiders, mollusks, birds and mammals.

Written By: Natalie Angier
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