Bizarre squid sex rituals revealed

December 23rd, 2008 - 3:01 pm ICT by ANI  

National Geographic

Washington, Dec 23 (ANI): Scientists studying the sex lives of deep-sea squids have come across some of its bizarre mating techniques.
According to study leader Henk-Jan Hoving, a Ph.D. student at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, during an intimate encounter, squids cut holes into their partners, swap genders, and also deploy flesh-burrowing sperm in their partners.
Hoving found that males of the bioluminescent species Taningia danae use their beaks and sharp claws to slice two-inch-deep wounds into their partners, and sperm packets or spermatophores, are then inserted into the female using a penis-like appendage.
The males of Moroteuthis ingens species were found to have sperm packets that, once deposited onto a female, burrow into the body.
“The spermatophores penetrate the skin independently,” National Geographic quoted Hoving as saying.
“They probably do that with the help of an enzyme-like substance that dissolves tissue,” he added.
During the study, the scientists also came across the first ever transgender squid called Ancistrocheirus lesueurii.
Some males of this species looked like the opposite sex in size and appearance, and were also found to have developed female sex glands.
Hoving believes that males impersonate females so that they can go unnoticed among potential mates.
However, another possible explanation, he said, may be that waterborne residues from human contraceptive pills or other “gender-bending” pollutants might be harming squid.
Another remarkable discovery was a squid that fertilizes its eggs internally.
It has long been believed that female squids release their eggs into the water to be fertilized by sperm left on their bodies by males.
But in the new study, the researchers found that females of the mini-squid Heteroteuthis dispar have an internal sperm storage sac that connects to the oviducts, the tubes through which eggs pass.
“Spawning and fertilization is usually external in squid, but this species suggests it can happen internally,” Hoving said.
“The sperm is able to migrate toward the eggs before they leave the body,” he added.
Mike Vecchione of the Smithsonian’’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., called the internal fertilization find “remarkable.”
The discovery of male squid with female characteristics is also “completely new,” he added. (ANI)

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