Evolutionary ecologist Sara Lewis digs deep into firefly mating rituals to uncover a world of secret languages and strange gifts in these silent sparks.

Why you should listen

Before Sara Lewis lifted the lid on the unexplored lives of fireflies, much of the sexual intrigue behind their flashing displays was a mystery. Although initially focused on sea creatures, Lewis became hooked on these enigmatic insects, realizing that when it came to firefly mating habits, "we had no idea what went on once the lights went out," as she told the New York Times.

Her fascination has led Lewis, a professor at Tufts University, to pursue field and laboratory studies of fireflies around the world. In the course of her groundbreaking research, she’s illuminated many surprising twists of firefly behavior: including elaborate flash dances, predatory eavesdropping and deceit, and “wedding gift” delivery services (video).

What others say

“Sara Lewis is fluent in firefly.” — New York Times, July 29, 2009

Sara Lewis’ TED talk

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How fireflies are beautiful — and useful

July 21, 2016

Sara Lewis studies fireflies. And it turns out they're not just a pretty flashing light on a summer night. She explains how a firefly glows -- and how humans are harnessing that glow for health and medical research (and even to make our food safer).

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