Attracting The One – Sophie Mowles

3rd December 2012

Are you looking for love at your time at university? Unsure why you are still single with Nottingham’s supposed 4 girls to every guy ratio? Don’t know where to start? Well fear not as the Science Show are taking its cues from nature into mating habits.

Join George, Carl and special guest Dr. Sophie Mowles as they delve into the weird, wonderful and downright bizarre methods implemented by natures finest. If not for the factual wonders, it will be worth it just to see two guys with no clue about romance try to pretend they know what they’re doing.

Also on the show, the student science team make light, using just sugar. Impressed? Thought so.

Join us 6-7 today, only on URN.

Carl, George and Sophie in the Studio!

Dr. Sophie Mowles joins The Science Show team in the studio today to talk about her research on mating and courtship in the animal kingdom! During her PhD, Sophie studied agression in hermit crabs – they’re the crabs with the fancy shells they call home! After this, she moved into looking at courtship between animals as it’s surprisingly like agression! You can watch a video of two Hermit Crabs fighting over a bigger home at the bottom of the blog. Hermit Crabs being angry

Mating displays in the animal kingdom are some of the most weird and wonderful behaviours you’ll ever hear about. From the brightly coloured birds of paradise to the creepy crawlies that live in our garden, most animals need to attract a mate.

Sophie studies some much less appealing creatures. Her day involves crickets, cockroaches and wasps at close quarters – not a job that everyone would appreciate! Although not the most attractive animals, they are really easy to work with.

Hermit Crab Eviction

Can’t see the video? Try refreshing. If that doesn’t work, download it here.

A lot of behavioural characteristics associated with anger actually make good mating displays. This could simply be because the ability to defend the nest or female is desired. They also dance and sing to attract mates, a great example that’ll make you laugh is the Manakin bird:

Some birds actually court in teams, the blue manakin birds all try to attract a mate but only one “captain” actually gets the girl. Once the captain has left, for example if he is killed or just dies, another captain is selected and creates his own team to work towards the goal of copulation. Check out the video on the right.


Sophie actually researches insects, more specifically wasps. The female wasp is in control and decides whether the male can actually mate, if they don’t want to mate they release a pheromone to get rid of them. It’s kind of like using your perfume as mace spray.


Crickets are easy to work with and so they are great to research, they like to fight and they like to mate! So Sophie has asked the question, what makes a male cricket attractive to a female cricket, for example what in a crickets song is attractive.

By taking blood and measuring things like lactic acid build up, Sophie has found out that usually, the cricket that can go the longest (singing, get your mind out of the gutter) gets the girl. A new piece of research has found that crickets have actually had to adjust their song to be heard over the rumble of traffic.

Student Science

Carl and Ben headed to the Student Science Lab to look at a phenomenon called Triboluminesence. Have a listen: