Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Final Day of Genitals: Barbless Boners

Some non-human primates have punk-rock peckers, embedded with barbs that make sex like literally scouring the drain, to get rid of sperm and discourage further mating. These primates, including marmosets and some prosimians, have "penile spines" which are exactly as unpleasant as they sound. 

We imagine this is the primate anthem in those particular species.

Fortunately for all concerned, humans don't have that. Evolution has kindly steered us towards smoother, larger penises. Of course this isn't exactly altruism on Evolution's part - these smoother schlongs are a great fit to remove unwanted swimmers of previous tenants, without the internal road rash issues of early primate editions. How did scientists test this theory?
Full-size image (51 K)
Dildos (and a false vagina [A]). For Science.
Well, they took a fake vagina marketed as a masturbation tool, and a bunch of dildos, and some cornstarch and water that was, AND WE QUOTE, "judged by three sexually experienced males to best approximate the viscosity and texture of human seminal fluid." This tells us several things, but mainly either that the authors of this paper are all virgins and they had to seek outside consultants, or that the 2 dudes involved in the survey didn't want to be considered experts in semen.

Essentially, they found that the coronal ridge (head of the penis) is important in getting sperm out of a vagina. They also combined data with a psychological study which showed that college-aged men tended to "involve deeper and more vigorous penile thrusting" during sex when they believed their girlfriends had cheated on them. AKA, they boned their ladies harder in order to clear out more frat boy spunk. SCIENCE. Seriously, go read this article. It's worth it for the equations alone.

This will be our last post on the topic of genitals for a while. It's not that we can't count, it's just that our search histories are literally starting to make our eyes blister and our souls melt, and we can't sustain that sort of inner horror.  We'll be back in a week or two, and spend at least a little time talking about something that isn't sex. We didn't quite make it 14 days, but we made it til the 14th! Happy Valentine's day everyone, now go enjoy some barbless boners!! (Or whatever you prefer...)

works cited:

Gallup, G. (July 01, 2003). The human penis as a semen displacement device. Evolution and Human Behavior, 24, 4, 277-289.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

14 Days of Genitals, Day 7: No Scrubs

I’m sure we’ve all been there. You’ve had the significant other who’s a little needy and can’t stand to be away from you for more than five minutes at a time, or the moocher who wants to crash on your couch all day dressed in nothing more than their underwear and dorito detritus. Maybe you, too, have woken up to someone who didn’t seem quite so bug-eyed and scrawny in the dark. The only thing worse than one of these is, well, all three of these at once.

Such is the curse of the female deep sea anglerfish.
To be fair, that deep in the ocean it's not like they can see anyways...
That cute little flesh nugget there on this handsome lady’s belly is her mate. He’s basically useless; male anglerfish are full-on parasites, with their entire circulatory system looped into that of the female. All they contribute is sperm and backseat driving. Even worse, sometimes female anglerfish can have more than one boy toy attached at a time. While the Vengeance Team definitely applauds the innovative adaptation of polyandry, given that these particular men neither clean the dishes nor offer much in the way of conversation, we’ve really only got one thing to say to our fishy friends:

Have you considered parthenogenesis?

Shoemaker, H. (1958). A female ceratioid angler, cryptopsaras couesi gill, from the gulf of mexico, bearing three parasitic males. Copeia, 1958(2), 143-145.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

14 Days of Genitals, Day 6: Lesbian Lizards

Sometimes, particularly around Valentines day, it can get a little bit rough trying to find a life (or momentary) partner. Animals suffer a similar sorrow, but some of them have evolved neat tricks to get around that whole  need-mate-to-make-babies shtick by cloning! That's right, Dolly was pretty heavily pre-empted by reptiles, including a population of Plateau Striped Whiptails right here in Oregon. This species (Aspidoscelis velox) is made up entirely of self-cloning female lizards.

Now you might think that clone babies don't have a whole lot to do with lesbianism, but you'd be wrong. Some lady whiptails will exhibit male behavior in the presence of other females, which causes the receiving lizard of the duo to ovulate and thus become pregnant with wee duplicates. Lizards which engage in roleplay are more likely to get self-knocked-up.

Personally, the Vengeance Team is particularly grateful this is not a trait shared by humans. God only knows what chaos would ensue from an Old Spice commercial. While a clone baby of either VT member would be super awesome and naturally gifted in every way (except height for one poor clone), it would be really hard for us to resist pranking each other into pregnancy. Come on - if all you had to do was puff up your chest and speak in a gravelly voice in order to knock a lady friend up, wouldn't you think it was kind of funny? Neither member of the Vengeance Team can really lay claim to the kind of maturity and restraint a world like that would require.

Sorry, Mini-Me(s). It's just safer this way.

Works Cited
Price, A. (1992). Comparative behavior in lizards of the genus cnemidophorus (teiidae), with comments on the evolution of parthenogenesis in reptiles. Copeia, 1992(2), 323-331.

Crews, D. , Grassman, M. , & Lindzey, J. (1986). Behavioral facilitation of reproduction in sexual and unisexual whiptail lizards. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 83(24), 9547-9550. 

Monday, February 11, 2013

14 Days of Genitals, Day 5: Corkscrew Cock

What, not impressed by an animal that will bite off its own penis in an attempt to break up with you, or a penis that can high five? Well, how about an animal naturally equipped to do the helicopter / open a bottle of wine?

#4 : Corkscrew Cock
This is definitely very like something from a "As Seen on TV" commercial.

Why have a dick shaped like a knock-off of the elder wand? Sperm competition! 
Pretty different from this, actually

See, lady ducks have a corkscrew-shaped vagina, so gentlemen ducks have to have a similar shape to, erm, scrape out the sperm of previous mates, as it were. Corkscrew cocks aren't just found in Ruddy ducks, but in many different paternally-invested waterfowl. Apparently if you're going to invest all the time in raising that chick, you want to make sure it's yours to begin with.

Coker, C. , McKinney, F. , Hays, H. , Briggs, S. , & Cheng, K. (2002). Intromittent organ morphology and testis size in relation to mating system in waterfowl. Auk (American Ornithologists Union), 119(2), 403-413.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

14 Days of Genitals, Day 4: Mother's Milk

Remember in high school when your teacher showed you horror porn (aka, "The Miracle of Life")? A great scare tactic for both sexual intercourse and ever becoming an adult, because as a 14-year-old you figured anyone who would call that mass of blood and crying a "miracle" was someone you did not want to be.

Well, to put it bluntly, humans have it easy.

For one, you don't look like this.
Caecilians (which are a weird amphibian group that look like legless, massively-uglier salamanders with a permanent sad face) have two life strategies which both really suck for mom. Version A: live birth, with several embryos in the female's tum-tum at a time. This gets really crowded since those babies are often more than half the length of the mother's body. Plus, when they come out they look like this:
And this is its good side.

...which is never a pleasant surprise. That's the Vengeance Team's working theory as to why caecilians are mostly blind. btw: sadness-induced self-harm. But what's even worse is what happens before they come out all wriggly and hideous (a several hour ordeal you can youtube at your own leisure). In the womb the baby caecilians use their specialized teeth to scrape away the nutrient-rich "uterine milk" that is produced in the lining of their mother's uterus. Scientists also found bits of the uterus itself in the stomachs of dissected embryos. That's right,  they go for more than just milk, they literally eat part of their mother's organs.

Version B is also a terrible option, which involved reproduction through eggs. Sure, with eggs  nobody's eating you from the inside out, but the commitment of the caecilian mother prevails: for a week after they hatch, the mother will cuddle her little deviant hellspawn as they periodically swarm over her and EAT HER SKIN. And we thought breastfeeding was weird.

Works Cited

Kupfer, A. , Muller, H. , Antoniazzi, M. , Jared, C. , Greven, H. , et al. (2006). Parental investment by skin feeding in a caecilian amphibian. Nature, 440(7086), 926-929.

Wake,  Marvalee H. Fetal Maintenance and Its Evolutionary Significance in the Amphibia: Gymnophiona. Journal of Herpetology , Vol. 11, No. 4 (Oct. 31, 1977), pp. 379-386

Saturday, February 9, 2013

14 Days of Genitals, Day 3: The Angle of the (Slime) Dangle

#3: The Angle of The (Slime) Dangle
Quick quiz: is the below an example of a threesome, or is it technically a fivesome?

If you said, "oh god no, please no," you're correct!

Vertebrates aren't the only ones with strange ding-a-lings. Slugs are hermaphrodites with penises as long as their bodies, and that's only the tip (heh) of the iceberg of insanity. The following documentary describes their mating rituals in detail, and in the voice Meaghan's always sort of imagined a slug having - that of an awkward-ed out teenage boy. Skip to minute 2:30ish if you're just interested in the way things with no bones, well, bone. 


Friday, February 8, 2013

14 Days of Genitals, Day 2: Prehensile Penises

 #2: Prehensile Penises
And to follow up a post on dicks that look like hands, here are some other ding-a-lings that could be confused for palms!
No, how do you do?
Turns out that dolphins and whales have extremely large, prehensile peckers that can explore all sorts of fun nooks and crannies, including hands! Flipper's little Philip is quite lonely and aggressive, too. One study on dolphin and swimmer interactions recorded 13 out of 29 dolphins had periods of misdirected sexual behavior towards buoys, vessels and humans. So next time you wanna go swimming with dolphins make sure you don't wave 'hello' too vigorously...

African elephants, not surprisingly, also have absolutely gigantic male appendages! Not only are they impressive in size, but also function. These prehensile peepees literally sub in as a third leg. Let's take a moment to check out the life of a male elephant:

Belly itch but no fingers? Not a problem, I've got a built-in belly scratcher!
Tired of standing on my own feet? Just use my giant slong to take a quick breather! 
Bugs buzzing all up in my bizniss? Swat 'em with that evolutionary fly catcher! 
Hot momma over by the watering hole? Wave hello AND impress at the same time!

Other Penis Purposes: picking up contact lenses they dropped, dowsing for water, and threatening small snakes.

Works Cited
"Chapter 15 Marine Mammals: Fisheries, Tourism and Management Issues". Cetaceans that are typically lonely and seek human company. 2003. pp. 266–268. Retrieved December 17, 2006. 

Thursday, February 7, 2013

14 Days of Genitals: Day 1, Rushmore's Rod

Valentines Day: the day of love or loneliness, depending on your perspective, but regardless of your relationship status February is a time to reflect on relationships, love, and sex. To celebrate the Vengeance Team is bringing you 14 Days of Genitals, tales of bizarre wiener wonders and stunning stories of the snatch, with one posted each day.

Why? Because for many of us, puberty was a horrifying hormonal roller coaster filled with unexpected body fluids and bizarre downstairs changes that our middle school teachers hadn't prepared us for. Of course, some of you probably grew up in less conservative towns than Meaghan ("Look at this overhead pen, ladies, this is what a tampon looks like" - NO), but irregardless adolescence in general leaves most humans with the general impression that genitals might be pretty useful, but they're definitely damned weird.

Ladies and gentlemen, you have no idea.

Humans are LUCKY, by animal kingdom standards. Do your testicles turn inside out during sex? When you get horny, does your entire ass swell to a glowing red cushion 3x its regular size? No? Well suck it up then, because these shitshows of biology are common for many other members of the animal kingdom.  Fair warning: these posts are graphic, gross, and totally awesome. If you have any sort of heart condition don't click on any of the links - they'll probably take you to the scientific equivalent of soft core porn.

Day # 1: Rushmore's Rod
We're gonna just launch straight into this thing. 
Clear the room, then click play and be thankful your downstairs are shaped the way the are, 
rather than... whatever this is. Also, be thankful this isn't your job.

It's really hard to decide if the silence is better, or even creepier. Regardless, it's clear that the truly disturbing thing here is the four-eyed demon hand that is the Echidna Penis. But for all the lady echidnas out there fleeing for their lives - during sex two of the heads just sort of shut down leaving only half the heads still functional. Because the only thing better than a four-headed johnson is when two of the heads aren't even bothering to pay attention, right??

Works Cited
Johnston, Steve D. and Smith, Brett and Pyne, Michael and Stenzel, Deborah J. and Holt, William V. (2007) One-Sided Ejaculation of Echidna Sperm Bundles.The American Naturalist 170(6):E162-E164.

Roig-Alsina, Arturo. (1993) The evolution of the apoid endophallus, its phylogenetic implications, and functional significance of the genital capsule (Hymenoptera, Apoidea). Bolletino di zoologia. Vol 60 (2).