Anybody who's ever mused that the world would be better if men got pregnant needs to talk to Nico Michiels. And so does anybody who's asked-or sung-"Why can't a woman be more like a man?" Michiels has seen that world, or at least a version of it, and he's even got pictures to show. It's not pretty, he says.
Many snails, slugs, and worms are so-called internally fertilizing, simultaneous hermaphrodites. In any encounter, such creatures can deliver sperm, receive it for fertilizing eggs internally, or do both.
Michiels, an evolutionary ecologist at the University of Tübingen in Germany, offers the striking example of hermaphroditic polyclad flatworms called Pseudobiceros bedfordi.
When two of these small, speckled sea worms meet to mate, there's no taking turns. Each worm, 2 to 6 centimeters long, wields its pair of side-by-side penises like a weapon. One worm tries to fertilize the other by ejaculating anywhere on its partner's body, splashing it with sperm in a cocktail that dissolves flesh. After the brew eats a hole through the skin, the sperm work their way through various tissues until they reach the eggs.
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Elephant Crop Raids Foiled by Chili Peppers, Africa Project Finds
Conflicts between farmers and elephants have long been widespread in Africa, where pachyderms nightly destroy crops, raid grain houses, and sometimes kill people.
Now farmers are fighting back with an unlikely weapon: chili peppers.
It makes sense to harness the power of the principles of behaviorism.
Humpback Whale Calls Are Love Songs, Biologist Suggests
Even among whales, it seems, the best singers get the girls.
Joshua Smith, a doctoral student at the University of Queensland in St. Lucia, Australia, has spent three migration seasons collecting the songs of humpback whales.
Flying sex pest silences the crickets
What do you do when your only means of attracting members of the opposite sex also puts your life in jeopardy? For field crickets on the Hawaiian island of Kauai, shutting up seems to work.
According to a new study, rapid evolution in the Kauain population of the oceanic field cricket Teleogryllus oceanicus has rendered nine-tenths of the males there incapable of producing their iconic night-time call. The genetic mutation, which changes the shape of the male's wing to make it silent, means the crickets are better adapted to avoid a deadly parasite.
The finding dumbfounded biologist Marlene Zuk, at the University of California in Riverside, US, who first thought the dwindling population of crickets she was studying had gone extinct when she no longer heard their calls.
"If you're a cricket and you're a male, your life is defined by calling," Zuk explains. "How are you going to find a female, and once you do, how are you going to get her to mate with you without your call?"