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Genitals: More useful than you think

"5 Unexpected Ways Animals Use Their Genitals". There's really not much more to be said about that. Maggie 8

How crocodiles have sex

A couple of weeks ago, I posted a link to a research paper on crocodile genitalia, which included a really helpful diagram showing how the male crocs' penis works as part of an all-purpose mating/elimination hole called a cloaca. Now, with the help of reader Eirik Lande, you can see what those genitals look like in, er, action. The above photo is part of a series of shots Lande took of a 661-pound Nile crocodile named Samson (and an unnamed/weighed female partner) as they did what comes naturally in a tank at Bergen, Norway's, Akvariet zoo.

For clarification, that's the female on top in this shot, but they started out in a different position. In Lande's photos you can see the two crocodiles flip, with the help of a "death roll" style move near the end of their mating. That photo is a bit more explicit, but gives you a fairly clear view of what it looks like when Samson shoves his genitals out of his cloaca.

How to: Sex your crocodile

Can you properly distinguish between a male and female crocodile? This research paper, published in 2007, will help — pointing out the sometimes subtle differences between external genitalia. It's chock full of pictures of erect crocodile penises, so you'll learn what those look like, but what particularly interested me was the diagram above.

Cloacas are sort of multi-purpose orifices found in certain species of birds and reptiles. Instead of having separate biological tools for poop, pee, and sex, these animals manage all three functions with the same hole. Males also have cloacas and will either have a penis or pseudo-penis that comes out of it for mating. I've known this for a long time, but had a lot of trouble picturing how all of that anatomy fits together. This diagram (Figure 4 in the paper) is the first image that made the internal structure of cloacas really make sense to me. The more you know!

Tapir penis: Almost as horrifying as echidna penis

In this not-exactly-safe-for-work video, two tapirs (a jungle-dwelling mammal, related to the rhinoceros) go at it with verve, while a nice family watches and makes what I assume to be amusing commentary.

As Matthew Cobb at Why Evolution is True discovered, this is only one entry in a whole genre of tapir sex videos and tapir penis photos.

Previously: The truly horrific penis of the echidna

Video Link

Anthropologist investigates African penis theft

Penis thefts are on the rise again in West and Central Africa. UC Berkeley cultural anthropologist/geographer Louisa Lombard investigated while visiting the tiny village of Tiringoulou. According to the town doctor, "Western medicine is no match for this magic. It is a mysterious thing.” From Pacific Standard Magazine:
As for the men whose penises were stolen, several eyewitnesses assured me that the appendages did indeed shrink dramatically. I can’t offer such an intimate eyewitness account myself, but I did visit one of the men at his home, and he clearly seemed to be suffering. He lay propped on one elbow, slack and listless in loose sweatpants, on a woven mat in the shade outside his house. A handful of friends kept him company. Over cups of sweet tea, I asked them about how they understood the recent events.

Penis snatching, they said, was a means of supplying an illicit and lucrative trade in organs. Cameroonians and Nigerians—people from places “where they have multistory buildings”—were seen as particularly well versed in the business. “You see how advanced Cameroon is?” someone said. “It’s because they are so strong in commerce of all kinds, including in genitals and scalps.” The stolen organs, my companions said, are sold to occult healers for use in ceremonies, or else they are quickly fenced back to victims of penis snatching for a price. But the real money was to be made in Europe. One man who had spent some time living in Cameroon said he had heard of a woman there who was nabbed by airport security while trying to smuggle several penises to the Continent inside a baguette.

"Missing Pieces"

Great moments in science education

And now, let us pay tribute to the 1992 winner of the Ig Nobel Award in the category of Art: Jim Knowlton's informative poster "Penises of the Animal Kingdom". (Bonus: The U.S. National Endowment for the Arts shared the award with Mr. Knowlton, for suggesting that he continue his work in pop-up book form.) (Via Josh Rosenau) Maggie

More than you maybe needed to know about the echidna

Echidnas are one of those weird Australian animals that seems to have been pieced together from leftover bits of other animals. Mammals that lay eggs, echidnas are covered in pointy hedgehog-like spines, but with a long snout and sticky tongue of an anteater.

Also, the males have a four-headed penis.

Not kidding. One shaft, four heads. Which is odd, because the female echidna reproductive tract only has two branches. Some of the stuff I've read this morning says that the male echidna mates using only two of his four heads at a time. Then, he'll find another lady echidna and let the other two heads have a turn. Another option, presented by National Geographic: He mates twice with each lady echidna, using first two heads, and then the other two.

National Geographic has helpfully provided visual evidence of this four-headed penis.

I'm putting the photo under a cut. Partly for comic effect, and partly because what is seen can never be unseen.

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