After reading the title of this post you might object, “But Richard this is duck penis month! Why let the duck vagina share the spotlight, too?” Well, it was a tough editorial decision, but after steeping myself in Prof. Brennan’s work on duck genitalia for the last few weeks I have come to undeniable conclusion that I cannot make the duck penis explicable without at least some discussion the duck vagina as well.
In this undertaking, I ask you to please bear with me, dear reader, because despite being an expert in penis science, Franz Liszt studies, and food/wine pairings, “vagina science” is entirely virgin territory for me. But if my mentor Tad Everhard taught me one thing it is to never be afraid of the unknown.
Existence precedes tumescence, one might say of penises. Thus, dear reader, before getting into the nitty-gritty of the duck penis and duck erections, I would like to first address the unusual existential quandary they pose.
The quandary is this: Only about 3% of bird species have a penis (Briskie and Montgomerie 1997). In the other 97% the external genitals of both males and females is a nubby little orifice called the cloaca, and mating is a simple matter of bumping nubs together for few seconds in a so-called “cloacal kiss.”
However, nearly all duck and waterfowl species do have a penis. You may ask: why should this be the case? Why the Being of the duck penis and not the Nothingness of the cloaca? What is the meaning of the existence of the duck penis?
7/7/2012 — 3:02 AM
I dreamt about Beatrice again. I was back at the conference, mingling in the reception hall. Bartleby was boring me with another of his tirades against “those jag-off editors” at the Annals, when suddenly the door to the atrium flew open and in floated Beatrice. She wore a virginal white dress, contrasting nicely against her mahogany skin. The dress billowed as she hovered silently towards me. When she passed the others they transformed into tiny bees, swarming upwards out of sight, until it was just me and the queen Beatrice.
Still hovering before me, she put a single finger to my lips and I instantly became erect. For a moment we both examined my tumescence and as I returned my gaze to her I found she was completely naked except for a coy, enticing smile. And she was half bee from the waist down. As was I.
Brushing the hors d’oeuvres off the snack table, I lept onto its surface and she floated herself over me. We paused, looking deep into each other’s eyes, and I could feel the heat coming off her copulatory bursa. I took her there, stinging her with my bee-penis. I felt a white flash of pain–a hurts-so-good–as my bee-genitals exploded and detached from my body, as happens when honey bees mate (Bishop 1920). Beatrice twisted away from me, taking my lower abdomen with her. My intestines spilled out of me like a magician’s handkerchief. Tied to the end of my gut-links was my quivering, still-beating heart. I watched it expel the last spurts of my blood, and then I died.
My corpse slumped to the floor and Beatrice grabbed my heart off the pile of entrails, delicately smeared a dollop of ranch dip on the heart, and ate it with a smile. It cracked and crunched in her mouth like a carrot. My hollow torso gave her a smile back, just happy to see her happy.
Once she finished eating, I floated upwards away from her and the scene below me retreated into darkness. But I was not alone in the void. I could feel the presence of a man, an unfathomably large man, looming behind me. I darted my head around, but the figure was always just out of sight. The void around me began to brighten with white static, and I knew I was coming out the dream. I began to panic, darting my head around, trying to catch the figure with a quick glance. But the static took over, and I screamed imploringly into it: “Tad! Where are you!?”
I woke up. My cats looked at me, startled.
Bishop, G. H. 1920. Fertilization in the Honey Bee: The male sexual organs. I. Their histological structure and physiological functioning. J. Exp. Zoo.: 31(2), 224-265. DOI: 10.1002/jez.1400310203.
Snodgrass, R. E. 1910. The Anatomy of the Honey Bee. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Entomology Technical Series. No. 18.
Wow. OK. So it seems my latest article on the gorilla’s penis has upset my esteemed colleague Brody J. Dickworth. Hopefully this means he has said his piece about his piece, but I very much doubt it.
Incidentally, Brody made a bizarre passing reference to elephants which reminds me of some interesting penis science worth relating here, if only to distance this majestic animal from its recent association with my colleague’s genitals.
At this point you might expect me to launch into my typical erudite exposition on the facts of the elephant penis: that it’s typically about 4 ft long, it bends in a S-shape when erect, and that it is able to writhe about independent from the elephant’s body because of special musculature (Short 1967). Well, dear reader, excuse me while I stifle a yawn.
Descriptive accounts of penises are all well and good–necessary even, as they are often the first step towards true penis science–but to focus solely on anatomy and physiology overlooks the larger aims of penis science, namely: 1) to give an evolutionary account of penises, i.e. the why and not just the how of a specific penis, 2) to understand the penis’s role in reproductive and social behavior, and 3) explore ways to improve our own penises.
Thus far this blog has mostly been concerned with the first aim, such as in the echidna penis article, and we’ve touched on the third aim in the barbed penis article. But today I would like to explore second aim, by way of the African elephant and the strange phenomenon known as green penis syndrome.
Dear reader, there is something you should know about me: I am a huge Dick fan, and I have been ever since my early twenties. Maybe my love of Dick has spilled over into my research, because I often find myself wondering, “What if…?” like in Dick’s classic alternate history novel “The Man in the High Castle”. But instead of asking, “What if the Nazi’s had won,” I ask, “What if our penises had evolved differently?”
Fortunately one doesn’t need to be a Dick to imagine the outcome such scenarios. We only have to examine the penises of our closest living evolutionary relatives, the primates, because in a sense each primate penis is an alternate history of the human penis, a window into What Could Have Been.
I’ve already touched on this idea a little in my post on the barbed penis, where I examined a study claiming proto-humans used to have magnificent barbed penises like many other primates. You might say the barbed penis is like a utopian alternative history, one where the Axis powers lose, but the States and the USSR nuke each other into oblivion, and Canada rises to supremacy, their scientists ruling the land like philosopher kings.
Then you might ask: Which penis corresponds to a dystopian alternate history, the one where the Axis powers win, the West falls to communism, and vampires take over Parliament? This would certainly have to be the gorilla penis.
Pour yourself a glass of your finest Bordeaux, adorn your silkiest robe, fetch your most affectionate lap cat, and settle in for a treat, dear reader. What you are about to hear is the sumptuous song of the male Micronecta scholtzi, a small aquatic insect also known as the lesser water boatman.
Such skill, power, and grace! But especially power: The water boatman’s echemes can reach almost 100 decibels, as loud as hearing an orchestra play the first movement of Mahler’s 8th symphony from the front row. Yeah–that loud. In fact, relative to its size it is the loudest animal on earth (Sueur et al. 2011).
The short-beaked echidna (Tachyglossus acelatus), also called the spiny anteater, is one of those bizarre half mammal half reptile Franken-animals from down under known as monotremes, an order whose more familiar representative is the duck-billed platypus.
In Greek mythology, Echidna was a half nymph half snake monstress, the mother of the fearsome Chimera, Hydra, Gorgon, and countless other creatures in the Greek pantheon. That this she-beast is the namesake of the humble and sometimes adorable short-beaked echidna may seem unfair, but this, dear reader, is only because you are unfamiliar with its great and awful penis.