January 16, 2013
Well-Endowed Barnacles Reignite Hot Tub Pregnancy Myths
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
While some strive with “male enhancement” pills to increase the size of their manhood, they will never live up to the reputation of the barnacle, which have the largest penises relative to body size.
New research indicates that the well-endowed gooseneck barnacles are able to capture sperm directly from water. Their "shoot and catch" system is the first time scientists have noticed this feat by crustaceans.
The process proves to be less intimate than one could expect from a record-holder in the southern region, but maybe it´s because they are still shy.
Marjan Barazandeh of the University of Alberta and colleagues used observational and chemical analysis to confirm that a high percentage of eggs were fertilized with sperm captured from the water, making all those high school hot tub pregnancy rumors have a little bit more life to them.
"Sperm capture occurred in 100 percent of isolated individuals and, remarkably, even in 24 percent of individuals that had an adjacent partner," the scientists wrote in in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
During barnacle sex, individuals must shoot sperm from their penises, while others capture that sperm for egg fertilization. This means their record-breaking penis is used in a more unconventional way, much more like a canon.
The team wrote that their observations overturn a belief about what barnacles are able to do in terms of sperm transfer, and it helps to raise questions about the capacity for sperm capture in other species.
Barnacles glue themselves to hard surfaces, like rocks or boats, so they need to grow super long penises in order to fertilize their neighbors. The authors say the male searches for partners by random penis movements, and then deposits sperm into the partner's mantle cavity.
While most barnacles are able to perform self-fertilization, the gooseneck barnacles reproduce even if they're anchored far away from other barnacles, which is literally known as "penis range."
In order to continue their study on this well-endowed species, the team plans on videotaping barnacles in the wild.