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"Obviously...you need a garage to park the car.”
May 1, 2007 10:06 AM   Subscribe

Respect the cock! Or duck, as the case may be. Avian co-evolution in action, from the New York Times.
posted by adamgreenfield (29 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
For those who want all the porn, this was published in an open access journal so that all the high-res figures are available. In addition, it's the crazy new PLoS ONE, which is supposed to be Web 2.0 or something like that.
posted by Llama-Lime at 10:16 AM on May 1, 2007


I thought they were called mallards.
posted by boo_radley at 10:24 AM on May 1, 2007


Oh!, the language of science:

“I could not believe it. It became one of those questions I wrote down: why do these males have this huge phallus?”

“Obviously you can’t have something like that without some place to put it in. You need a garage to park the car.”

"To test her hypothesis, Dr. Brennan plans to team up with a biomechanics expert to build a transparent model of a female duck. She wants to see exactly what a duck phallus does during mating." (yeah, right!, she's going to use it for that)
posted by dov3 at 10:26 AM on May 1, 2007


I'm starting to have bromantic feelings for Carl Zimmer. He's real smart for a guy who isn't actually a scientist.
posted by GuyZero at 10:28 AM on May 1, 2007


Somehow, generations of biologists had never noticed this anatomy before.

This story reminded me of how long it took for human clitoral anatomy to be properly understood.
posted by teleskiving at 10:31 AM on May 1, 2007


I have been "locked in an evolutionary struggle for reproductive success" with my next door neighbour for several years. The results, let's just say, are startling.
posted by Turtles all the way down at 10:31 AM on May 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


Dr. Brennan was oblivious to bird phalluses until 1999.

Then came the year 2000, or as we like to call it "The Year of the Bird Phallus"...
posted by doctor_negative at 10:32 AM on May 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


Duck cocks? Have I been lied to all these years? I thought that fowl had cloacas!
posted by porpoise at 10:33 AM on May 1, 2007


So is this where we got the word, 'screwing' from?
posted by Alex404 at 10:53 AM on May 1, 2007


This story reminded me of how long it took for human clitoral anatomy to be properly understood.
posted by teleskiving at 10:31 AM on May


Word. Science doesn't care about women. As a general rule.

Also, male ducks don't care much about female ducks either. I tend to hide my eyes or run from the scene whenever I'm near ducks mating. It always has a destinctly gang-rapesque vibe, with numerous male ducks chasing one female, hopping onto her, biting her neck, and then holding her head under water while fucking her, while she struggles desperately to get away.

Call me sensitive, but it also kind of bugs me that this researcher is cutting up all these birds to look at their vaginas and stuff. Oh well. I guess life is cheap when you're a duck.
posted by serazin at 10:56 AM on May 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


psmealey wrote Hope this doesn't get deleted like single-link pussyfilter was.

Hmmm?
posted by chuckdarwin at 11:08 AM on May 1, 2007


Does it also bother you that she was cutting up all those other birds to look at their phalluses and stuff?

In 2005 she traveled to the University of Sheffield to learn the art of bird dissection from Tim Birkhead, an evolutionary biologist. Dr. Birkhead had her practice on some male ducks from a local farm.

This can't be made into a "no one cares about the anatomy of the female ducks"-thing, as scientists weren't aware of complicated duck dick either, until '99.
posted by hototogisu at 11:09 AM on May 1, 2007


So, this is basically the evolution of the duck penis...

OK, that's pretty odd.
posted by chuckdarwin at 11:11 AM on May 1, 2007


Somehow I don't think the phrase "hung like a duck" is going to catch on.
posted by L. Fitzgerald Sjoberg at 11:19 AM on May 1, 2007


Word. Science doesn't care about women. As a general rule.

On the other hand. . .
When it comes to health, one of the biggest risks a man faces in his lifetime is being a man. . .

. . . some experts question whether the intense focus on women has had the unintended result of allowing men's health issues to slide. For instance, Congress directed $778 million to breast- and ovarian-cancer research from 2002 to 2006, 85% more than the $420 million it set aside for prostate-cancer research during the same period, according to data from the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs office. Nobody thinks breast cancer should get less attention, but there is growing concern that the big killers of men -- heart disease, prostate cancer, injuries and suicide -- aren't getting equal billing.
posted by dgaicun at 11:23 AM on May 1, 2007


Oops, clipped: "At every stage of life -- from infancy to the teen years to middle age -- a man is at far higher risk for getting sick and dying than a woman. The average life expectancy of a man -- 75 years -- is more than five years shorter than that of a woman."
posted by dgaicun at 11:25 AM on May 1, 2007


The photo looks like it should've properly read: "Pekin duck, examining the phallus of the assistant to Patricia Brennan, a behavioral ecologist."
posted by AwkwardPause at 11:37 AM on May 1, 2007


What I found most interesting:

"During mating, however, it fills with lymphatic fluid and expands into a long, corkscrew shape. The bird’s sperm travels on the outside of the phallus, along a spiral-shaped groove, into the female bird"

Travels on the outside! How weird
posted by rosswald at 11:37 AM on May 1, 2007


Does it also bother you that she was cutting up all those other birds to look at their phalluses and stuff?

Yup.

When it comes to health, one of the biggest risks a man faces in his lifetime is being a man. . .

Yup. One factor is probably that men seek health care less frequently than women do. I would postulate that this reduced use of medical care is connected with the stoicism and emotional reserve that is expected of men in our culture. Also, as I understand it, men are at higher risk for homicide, and participate more in certain high-risk behavoirs. And of course, most militaries still only "allow" men to participate in combat missions.

I didn't read the whole article you linked, but it does seem silly for them to arbitrarily compare research money spent on breast cancer vs. prostate cancer since the total number of people who are affected by breast cancer is much greater than the number of people effected by prostate cancer.

"Science doesn't care about women" was my shorthand for "Historically, and in general, scientific researchers tend to treat males as the default, and when researching health issues that impact both men and women, they tend to present research done only on men as if it necessarily also applies to women. Often, this habit works to the detriment of women."
posted by serazin at 11:40 AM on May 1, 2007


Which is why we need more women scientists


posted by rosswald at 11:43 AM on May 1, 2007


Female ducks seem to be equipped to block the sperm of unwanted males. Their lower oviduct is spiraled like the male phallus, for example, but it turns in the opposite direction. Dr. Brennan suspects that the female ducks can force sperm into one of the pockets and then expel it. “It only makes sense as a barrier,” she said.

Built in birth control.
posted by inconsequentialist at 11:56 AM on May 1, 2007


the total number of people who are affected by breast cancer is much greater than the number of people effected by prostate cancer

While men are technically at risk for breast cancer (and women, necessarily are NOT at risk for prostate cancer), the risk is orders of magnitude LOWER for men.

Comparing deaths by cancer is equally problematic, as a man with prostate cancer may die of something else as a result of having prostate cancer, and not the cancer itself.

Can you provide a source for your claim?
posted by dwivian at 12:05 PM on May 1, 2007


. . . some experts question whether the intense focus on women has had the unintended result of allowing men's health issues to slide. For instance, Congress directed $778 million to breast- and ovarian-cancer research from 2002 to 2006, 85% more than the $420 million it set aside for prostate-cancer research during the same period, according to data from the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs office. Nobody thinks breast cancer should get less attention, but there is growing concern that the big killers of men -- heart disease, prostate cancer, injuries and suicide -- aren't getting equal billing.

1) 778 is about 50% more than 420 not 85%.
2) Men get breast cancer too.
3) Heart disease is also the number one cause of death for women. It kills more women than breast cancer. Actually, more women die of lung cancer than breast cancer.
5) Unintentional injuries? I suppose we could throw money at trauma research, but that money woud probably be better spent on a campaign to get men to be more safety conscious.
4) Suicide? What can throwing money at medical research do to result the amount of male suicidies. Sounds like more of a social problem than a medical problem. Also, suicide is only the 8th leading cause of death for men. Stroke, chronic lower respiratory diseases, diabetes, and influenza and pneumonia all beat it out.

According to the CDC in 2003 (latest year for stats):
185,891 men were diagnosed with prostate cancer and 29,554 men died from the disease.

181,646 women were diagnosed with breast cancer, and 41,619 women died from the disease.
posted by nooneyouknow at 2:42 PM on May 1, 2007


Also, I really suck at math. A lot.
posted by nooneyouknow at 2:44 PM on May 1, 2007


What are all you people talking about? I came here for the duck raping!
posted by liquorice at 4:13 PM on May 1, 2007


I thought that fowl had cloacas!

All birds have cloacas. However, most male birds don't have phalluses, it seems. Here's more info (warning: link has embedded video of mating birds).
posted by gubo at 4:26 PM on May 1, 2007


Well, this article has basically put to rest that nagging doubt about whether that duck I saw in my driveway last year was eviscerated or turned on....
posted by carmen at 5:04 PM on May 1, 2007


I tend to hide my eyes or run from the scene whenever I'm near ducks mating. It always has a destinctly gang-rapesque vibe, with numerous male ducks chasing one female, hopping onto her, biting her neck, and then holding her head under water while fucking her, while she struggles desperately to get away.

I agree with you completely, serazin. This has cast a real pall over my duck-watching. I first read about rape by ducks in David Barash's book The Whispering Within. One day, after I'd told my SO about it, we were walking on the UW Seattle campus when we came upon a group of three mallards on the grass by the side of a path, two of whom were quacking fiercely and jumping about and the third just standing around. I was tugging her past, but her instincts were sounder, and she ran over and routed the quackers, and about thirty seconds later a female duck came out from under a nearby flowering shrub and waddled away with the one who'd been just standing there (I had to keep my mate from chasing him, the coward, away, too).

I've been puzzled by this business of holding the female's head under water, which risks killing her. You're not going to get that many offspring if you kill your sex partners in the act. I think I see what may be going on, now that I know the female can resist internally. Those males are holding her head under until she gives in and allows them to penetrate.
posted by jamjam at 6:54 PM on May 1, 2007


Forced copulation is common in the animal world; in some animal species it is the most common form of reproduction (e.g. orangutans). Since males and females have separate reproductive interests, many animal species have adaptations that facilitate rape for males (e.g. a dorsal grasper in scorpion fly), or protect against it for females (e.g. the vaginal corkscrew in this study). There is a reproductive arms race in many species between males and females, and in some controlled insect experiments where males are allowed to evolve and females aren't, males soon evolve mechanisms to subvert female choice entirely.

This of course is the reason Thornhill and Palmer were dealing with relevant and important subject matter in the much maligned book A Natural History of Rape.

Research since that book, has shown that a single act of rape is more than twice as likely to impregnate a human female than a single act of consensual sex. This helps suggest that antagonistic genetic adaptations for and against rape probably didn't just conveniently disappear in the evolutionary window between humans and the other great apes.
posted by dgaicun at 12:09 PM on May 2, 2007


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