Scientists didn’t know much about the sex life of marine mammals or about their reproductive anatomy, so they decided it was time to find out. They found quite an unusual way to do it, but the research returned valuable results. The innovative technique consisted of inflating dead dolphin genitalia and studying the particularities of the organs.
Researchers inflated dolphin genitalia to see how they worked
Male genitalia is one of the most interesting organs out there, as they are incredibly diverse, and can evolve differently from one species to another, even if they are closely related. Female genitalia is given less attention, as researchers thought they developed individually. However, the study points out to a common evolution of the male and female organs.
To see how the evolution of sea mammal sexual organs, researchers collected penises and vaginas coming from a series of animals, such as two species of dolphins, one species of porpoises, and seals. All the animals had undergone a natural death, and the best-preserved specimens were selected to have their genitalia inspected.
The male and female sexual organs evolved together
All the organs were kept in a solution of formaldehyde to avoid disintegration after the penises were injected with saline to stay in an erect shape. Then, the two organs were sewn into one another, simulating a sexual interaction. With the help of a tomography, researchers could see what was happening inside, how the two organs fit, and what other parts of the dolphin genitalia got into contact.
It might seem odd that they needed to know if the organs fit. However, dolphin genitalia is extremely complex. These animals have more folds in the vagina, as well as more intricate canals that the sperm needs to enter for a successful fertilization.
The results of the study revealed male dolphin genitalia didn’t evolve on its own. It was rather a common evolution of the two organs, as both the male can deal with the complexity of the female organ, and the female can avoid fertilization by placing her body at a different angle.
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