UK exhibition to tell you everything you ever wanted to know about wild sex

January 30th, 2011 - 4:30 pm ICT by ANI  

London, Jan 30 (ANI): An exhibition at the Natural History Museum here will provide curious public an opportunity to explore the diversity of methods used for sex and reproduction in the natural world.

According to Tate Greenhalgh, developer of the ‘Sexual Nature’ exhibition that opens at the museum on February 11, a male snake is endowed with a forked penis to prevent the female escaping, reports the Independent.

There is ’sperm competition’ which involves some species being extremely well endowed. The tiny blue wren bird, for instance, has testes that account for a quarter of his body weight.

The chimpanzee, given the promiscuity of his species, has developed powerful gonads to make sure any offspring is his own.

“They are able to produce enough sperm not only to fertilise the female’s eggs, but also to form a barrier that prevents any other sperm from getting through. Hedgehogs do it too,” said Greenhalgh.

The banana slug will bite off its own penis and leave it in the female to prevent any other slug depositing its DNA.

In the hyena world, it is the female that rules, choosing her mate, guarding territory, rearing cubs and allowing the male to stay or kicking him out as she sees fit. Her genitalia have even evolved to look like the males.

The star of the exhibit will be ‘Guy the Gorilla’, once an idol at London Zoo, who is returning to the spotlight 33 years after his death, said Greenhalgh.

He is a typical alpha male, with a 73in chest and a huge neck and his penis was about three centimetres erect because he did not have to compete with other males, she added.

The barnacle’s penis, by contrast, is 30 times its body length, while the male salmon’s effort to reproduce is so great he often dies of exhaustion.

“Survival doesn’t always take precedence over reproduction,” said Greenhalgh.

“The peacock develops its glorious plumage to attract females, but it also makes him very conspicuous to predators and is often the cause of his downfall,” she added.

The museum’s own most recent discovery concerns the humble water beetle, the male of which does not like to take no for an answer.

As a result, he has developed suckers on his feet that allow him to get a grip on the female’s carapace; in response, she has developed ridges on her back so that she can dislodge him if she doesn’t find him appealing.

Some 300 zoologists, botanists and palaeontologists are working with millions of specimens to add to our knowledge of the natural world.

They are currently researching the DNA of mosquitoes so that malaria-carrying species can be more easily identified, located and eliminated. (ANI)

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