Saturday, March 17, 2012

Thoughts on Sex

Flowers are the sex organs of plants.
Mushrooms are the sexual structures of fungi
Spring is all about sex. Sex. Sexual reproduction is a topic that quite interests me because it is a relatively novel idea in the scheme of evolutionarily time, and one that can really get people riled, or get their panties in a bunch, which makes it even that much more fun to think about, because topics that cause people to get uncomfortable are often places where more inquiry, critical questioning and  understanding are needed.

3-spine stickleback--Gasterosteus aculeatus
Modes and methods of sexual reproduction are broad and diverse and often times species specific. The picture on the right is of a three spine stickleback fish. Courtship and mating behavior for this fish involves numerous aspects including the development of bright red nuptial coloration in the males. Male fish in this species are responsible for making a nest and attracting the female to lay her eggs inside, where by the male can then fertilize them. After fertilization, the eggs are tended to solely by the male. So for this species, we have a male, striving to have any female respond to his nuptial colors such that she might drop her eggs in his nest for him to fertilize, and then she leaves, and he painstakingly tends to the eggs himself, until they hatch. 
When you start to look into it, you begin to realize that reproductive strategies and mating behaviors are extremely diverse within and across taxa. I'm sure everyone has heard gruesome tales of the sex lives of some spiders, and many other insects, where after mating the female ingests the male getting extra nutrients to ensure the success of their off-spring. 

But, who knew that the Indonesian Octopus, Abdopus aculeatus had such an entertaining and dramatic sex life? Read all about it here: What is up with the deep sea angler fish? Watch this short video from Animal Planet I found on YouTube about angler fish mating customs for insight into that bizarre strategy. And how is it that we are just now learning about the twisted, quite literally, reproductive strategies of ducks?

For more information on the evolution of sex and the diversity of reproductive strategies amongst plants and animals, I recommend reading the review Evolution and Sexuality: Bilogy and Behavior, by Gregory G. Dimijian, MD. available on the NCBI Database:

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