Elaborate penises of the feminine variety
Penises. A male phenomenon, yes? The exception that proves the rule has been found. A recent study published in Current Biology reported how females of a newly studied insect genus Neotragla buck the trend of possessing simple sexual organs and have highly elaborate, penis-like structures called gynosomes. These ‘female penises’ have specie-specific distinctions such as spines, and can engage in prolonged copulation of up to 70 hours in which the gynosome is used to draw out the male’s ejaculate. Males, in comparison, are found distinctly lacking.
Graphical abstract from Current Biology
How might this have come to be? The authors concluded that this reversal is probably driven by sexual selection, with females competing for the ‘seminal gifts’ of males, rather than the traditional male-male competition usually seen in the wider animal kingdom. Sexual selection and the evolution of the major differences between males and females attract a lot of attention, and this study adds an opportunity to investigate theorems of sexual selection in a new light.
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