Mysterious Alligator Penises Are Constantly Erect and Eject and Retract at Lightning Speed (VIDEO)
A new study on alligators found that unlike many other reptiles and mammals, the reproductive organ of a male alligator is permanently erect and hidden inside its body.
Researchers found that the fully erect penis of the American alligator is made of tough fibrous tissue that quickly bursts in and out of its body, according to a new study published in the journal Anatomical Record.
The incredible reproductive ability of the alligator means that its penis does not change shape or size when aroused and does not require inflation for mating.
"It is really interesting and really bizarre, very different from anything we've seen in vertebrates," researcher Diane Kelly, an anatomist at the University of Massachusetts, said, according to Live Science.
Researcher explained that when alligators mate, the male could eject and retract his penis at equal speed.
Kelly said that in the early 20th century, one scientist had described the alligator penis in a paper but in the end concluded "I have no idea how this thing works".
Kelly and her team dissected several dead American alligators and found a 2.75 inch white phallus hidden inside the reptiles' waste and reproductive orifice, known as a cloaca.
After researchers dissected the penile tissue, they found that it so full of collagen, it left no room for it to inflate pre-reproduction.
She explained that in a majority of other animals, inflating the vascular region of a penis with saline usually enlarges it. Anatomists often do this so understand how penises from different animals become erect.
"I tried it with the alligator and I got no length change, I got no diameter change. I got nothing," Kelly told Live Science. "It became very clear to me right then and there that there was something very different."
Kelly and her team also found that the alligator penis ejects with a specific set of muscles and retracts when the reptile relaxes those muscles using "rubber band" tendons at its base.
"As soon as those muscles relax, the penis gets whipped back into its original position," she said.
Researchers aren't sure whether the penis comes out only during mating or also at other times, and since crocodiles and alligators are closely related, Kelly and her team believe that there is a good chance that crocodile penises work the same way as alligator penises.