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Researchers Find Female 'Penis' On Brazilian Cave Insects

Update Date: Apr 19, 2014 01:59 PM EDT
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Scientists have recently found four species of insects with female 'penises' living in dry Brazilian caves feeding on bat guano. The discovery is being boasted as 'world's first' instance of gender-reversed genitalia. 

The all four species of insects display what scientists are calling an "evolutionary novelty" which is a full-on, anatomical sex-role reversal. 

Reuters reported that instances of sex-role reversal have been found in other animals before but this is the first time the "intermittent organ" is reversed. 

Researchers said the female received sperm by inserting a penis-like organ called 'gynosome', into the male which could hold in place against the male's will. 

"Because the female anchoring force is very strong, a male's strong resistance may cause damage to his genitalia," said entomologist Kazunori Yoshizawa, according to Time. "Therefore, it is very likely that entire mating processes are controlled actively by females, whereas males are rather passive."

"Because the female anchoring force is very strong, a male's strong resistance may cause damage to his genitalia. Therefore, it is very likely that entire mating processes are controlled actively by females, whereas males are rather passive," Yoshizawa said.

Researchers said the insects were small measuring one tenth to one and a half tenths of an inch long (2.7 mm-3.7 mm) looking superficially like flies. 

Researchers cited other unusual example of sex organs among animals such as seashores that uses an organ to deposit eggs with a male's brood pouch and a kind of mite whose females have a long genital tube. 

"By the definition of female - an organism that produces egg cells that are larger than the sperm cells produced by males - even with the penis-like intromittent organ, females of Neotrogla are still female," Yoshizawa said, according to Reuters.

 "Females of Neotrogla likely represent the most 'macho' females among animals discovered to date."

The research has been published in the journal Current Biology.

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