U of T researchers explore how bugs get busy in new The Nature of Things documentary

Professors Maydianne Andrade and Andrew Mason
U of T Scarborough biology professors Maydianne Andrade and Andrew Mason took part in a recent episode of The Nature of Things that explored bug sex (photo courtesy Andrew Gregg/Red Trillium Films)

A group of U of T researchers lent their expertise for a recent episode of CBC’s The Nature of Things that explored how bugs get busy.   

Researchers from U of T Mississauga and U of T Scarborough were featured in the March 10 episode hosted by David Suzuki. The Red Trillium Films documentary is currently streaming on CBC Gem.

As Suzuki points out, bugs are the most numerous and diverse animals on the planet and all of them need to pass on their genes. Their mating rituals, it turns out, are equally as diverse. 

“Sex in bugs is fascinating, gruesome, counterintuitive,” says Maydianne Andrade, professor in the department of biological science at U of T Scarborough and renowned expert on the mating habits of cannibalistic spiders.

“It’s ridiculous in its complexity. Ridiculous in how extreme it is, and most people know nothing about it.”

Andrade, who came up with the original concept for the documentary and was the story editor, appeared in the documentary alongside her PhD supervisor Darryl Gwynne, a UTM professor emeritus of biology, UTM assistant professor of biology Rosalind Murray, and UTSC biology professor Andrew Mason.

“Nature is amazing in what it generates in terms of diversity — same thing goes for the mating game,” says Gwynne.

Mason, who is chair of the department of biological sciences at U of T Scarborough, studies bug acoustics and behaviour. He looked at the reproductive habits of the monster haglid, a large cricket that emits an unusually loud mating call.  

Catherine Scott, who completed her PhD under Andrade at U of T Scarborough and is currently a postdoc at McGill University, also took part in the documentary.

Watch the full episode at CBC