Friday, May 04, 2007

Who Wants to Read about Duck Genitalia?

Most of you who are avid readers of the New York Times have probably already seen this article prominently featured in the Science section (and carried on several of the "most read/blogged" lists), but for those of you who haven't, I strongly encourage you to check it out now.

I have to admit that I was as surprised as the next casual observer when I first saw this article featured in the Times (particularly after seeing how popular it had become) but, after reading through it, realized where its appeal lay. Obviously, the biggest hook for most readers will come in the title, which features the phrases "war of the sexes" and "evolution of genitalia," two surefire ways of drawing the attention of even the most jaded/demanding news consumer.

But, to be fair, when it comes down to it it's actually a very interesting article, especially for those of us who studied evolution and ecology during our undergraduate years. The basic premise is that male ducks have had to adapt to the growing evolutionary forces driving sexual reproduction by developing ever larger phalluses (i.e. penises) to ensure that their sperm fertilizes the females' eggs. In response, females have had to develop ever more elaborate oviducts (think twisting passageways, random nooks/crannies, etc) to ensure that only the "best" males get to fertilize their precious cargo. This is really a brief synopsis of the piece so I heartily recommend you examine it in its entirety to get the whole picture.

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