Saturday 25 November 2017

From scientific sound collection to entomological erotica. Part 1.

The BioAcoustica project goes from strength to strength. Recently Klaus-Gerhard Heller and I published a new species of the bush-cricket Horatosphaga that Klaus-Gerhard first identified from a recording I had made available on the platform. The species was named in honour of David Ragge, who worked on bush-crickets at the Natural History Museum (NHM) in London for many years, as well being the founder of the NHM's library of recorded wildlife sounds.

Making the NHM sound collection freely available allowed Klaus-Gerhard to identify the potential new species - and after I re-prepared the future holotype to expose the stridulatory file it could be confirmed easily enough. The openness led to a new collaboration.

The first taxonomic group that we have made data available for was the Gryllotalpidae - in part because of the status of Gryllotalpa gryllotalpa  in the UK is of interest, and in part because the NHM also has casts of some of the acoustic burrows made by males.

At the recent Orthoptera Special Interest Group (SIG) of the Royal Entomological Society I was approached by Clive Huggins who informed me that I was listed in the credits of The Duke of Burgundy - an art film with entomology as an important plot point, and it appears a good amount of slightly unusual erotica. Indeed The Guardian starts one review with the following paragraph:

"The Duke of Burgundy is the most tender love story you'll see in which a woman forcefully urinates in her lover's mouth."

This obviously needs to be checked out. The only issue was I had completely forgotten about supplying the recordings. I initially assumed they were just taken from BioAcoustica - but the film was made just before BioAcoustica went live.

Digging through old emails I discovered when the film crew got their hands on the recordings. Before BioAcoustica was released to the public we had to get permission from the NHM to release the sound recordings under an open licence (Creative Commons Attribution), which I managed to arrange. At about this time I was passed an email from a film company via George Beccaloni (at the time NHM Curator of Orthopteroid insects) from someone who was after recordings we had of various Gryllotalpa species. The reason I had no recollection of the storyline was due to not having many details about the film. Indeed the only thing I did now follows here:
"We'd be using as part of a film soundtrack - it's the story of two entomologists ( sort of!) - in one scene they listen to Mole Crickets...."
So that's how George and I ended up being credited in The Duke of Burgundy.