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Barnacles Go To Great Lengths To Mate

Date:
February 7, 2008
Source:
University of Alberta
Summary:
Compelled to mate, yet firmly attached to the rock, barnacles have evolved the longest penis of any animal for their size -- up to 8 times their body length -- so they can find and fertilize distant neighbors. Biologists have shown that barnacles appear to have acquired the capacity to change the size and shape of their penises to closely match local wave conditions.

Compelled to mate, yet firmly attached to the rock, barnacles have evolved the longest penis of any animal for their size - up to 8 times their body length - so they can find and fertilize distant neighbors.
Credit: Image courtesy of University of Alberta

Compelled to mate, yet firmly attached to the rock, barnacles have evolved the longest penis of any animal for their size - up to 8 times their body length - so they can find and fertilize distant neighbours.

Graduate student Christopher Neufeld and Dr. Richard Palmer from the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Alberta have shown that barnacles appear to have acquired the capacity to change the size and shape of their penises to closely match local wave conditions.

When wave action is light, a longer (thinner) penis can reach more mates, but at times of higher wave action, a shorter (stouter) penis is more manoeuvrable in flow and therefore can reach more mates.

The research, published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, suggests that sexual selection - competition with other males, female choice, sexual conflict between males and females - is not required to explain variation in genital form.

In barnacles, this variation appears to be driven largely by the hydrodynamic conditions experienced under breaking waves.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Alberta. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Alberta. "Barnacles Go To Great Lengths To Mate." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 February 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/02/080206150703.htm>.
University of Alberta. (2008, February 7). Barnacles Go To Great Lengths To Mate. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 1, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/02/080206150703.htm
University of Alberta. "Barnacles Go To Great Lengths To Mate." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/02/080206150703.htm (accessed October 1, 2014).

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