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December 15 2012

Cicadas' Cycles Control Their Predators

Periodical cicadas have such a strange life cycle that some have argued they can count, and have a particular affinity for prime numbers. That's because their broods emerge after lengthy periods of time; in North America, they appear en masse from underground every 13 or 17 years. Now, two researchers argue that the cicadas' cycles are timed to "engineer" the numbers of a mortal enemy—predatory birds. Contrary to what one might expect, these birds' populations drop significantly the year cicadas emerge in all their buzzing glory, the scientists report in the current issue of The American Naturalist.

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