The Loh Down On Science

You'll never guess what animal loses its penis after sex

Mating sea slugs

Sekizawa et al., Biology Letters

Mating sea slugs

Putting it all out there for a date?  What the sea slug does is unreal!

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Humans love disposable stuff—diapers, utensils, e-mail.  But we’ll keep our body parts, thank you very much!

Not so the sea slug Chromodoris reticulata.

Japanese researchers became curious about it while exploring coral reefs.  So they brought specimens into the lab, where they observed thirty-one slug matings. 

And?

Well, each animal has both male and female parts.  To mate, two slugs pair off and exchange sperm with tendril-like male organs.

In the lab, instead of the tendril retracting after each mating, it broke off!   Floated away! Bye-bye, male member!

But within a day, each regrew, ready for business.  Turns out the organ can break off and regrow at least three times! 

The biologists suspect this evolved because each tip is covered with tiny barbs.  Handy for holding on to sperm, but painful to retract.

It’s a beautiful lovemaking process called "trading barbs."  Couldn't they just exchange Hallmark cards? Just asking.

 

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