Why the GOP Should Love Duck Penises

<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/12836528@N00/6181596156/">kevin dooley</a>/Flickr

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My colleague Asawin Suebsaeng missed the most important point about Duckpenisgate: right-wingers should like duck sex research, because it almost, kind of, makes Todd Akin look not-so-bonkers.

Unlike humans, female ducks actually do have a way to “shut that whole thing down” when raped by a male duck. As Richard Prum, an evolutionary ornithologist at Yale University, explained to Politifact:

In duck ponds, Prum said, a lot of forced copulation occurs. Forced copulation is what it sounds like—rape in nature. Even gang rape happens among ducks. And Prum found that while 40 to 50 percent of duck sex happens by forced copulation, only 2 to 4 percent of inseminations result from it (meaning times the female duck ends up with a fertilized egg).

“The question is why does that happen? How does a female prevent fertilization by forced copulation?” he said. “The answer has to do with taking advantage of what males have evolved—this corkscrew shaped penis.”

Prum said the duck penis is a corkscrew whose direction runs counterclockwise. Female ducks, he said, have evolved a complex vagina also shaped like a corkscrew — but a clockwise one.

“This is literally an anti-screw anatomy,” he said.

It’s not just ducks. Other fowl—like the feral chickens studied here—are able to eject sperm from their body after sex. They can eject up to 80 percent of the ejaculate! (Hat tip: University of Rhode Island professor Holly Dunsworth.)

Duck penii and sperm-ejecting chickens aren’t some novelty. They actually raise fascinating questions about evolution and procreation. Even if humans can’t “shut that whole thing down” (sorry, Todd), it’s worth figuring out why our fowl friends can.

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DONALD TRUMP & DEMOCRACY

Mother Jones was founded to do things differently in the aftermath of a political crisis: Watergate. We stand for justice and democracy. We reject false equivalence. We go after, and go deep on, stories others don’t. And we’re a nonprofit newsroom because we knew corporations and billionaires would never fund the journalism we do. Our reporting makes a difference in policies and people’s lives changed.

And we need your support like never before to vigorously fight back against the existential threats American democracy and journalism face. We’re running behind our online fundraising targets and urgently need all hands on deck right now. We can’t afford to come up short—we have no cushion; we leave it all on the field.

Please help with a donation today if you can—even just a few bucks helps. Not ready to donate but interested in our work? Sign up for our Daily newsletter to stay well-informed—and see what makes our people-powered, not profit-driven, journalism special.

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