Singing Penis Sets World Record

Hello again, dear readers.  I’ve been vacationing in Europe, but I am now back home in the good ol’ U. S. of A.  And to celebrate my return (oh, yeah, and the founding of our great nation—Happy Birthday, America!), it seemed like a good idea to post on my blog.

So, before you report me, I’m talking about this guy:

the lesser water boatman

tiny bug, huge…sound.

This little bug, known in the UK as a “lesser water boatman” and officially classified Micronecta scholtzi, is an aquatic insect that sings to court females.  But how he sings is a little bit unorthodox.  Hence why he’s also known as the “singing penis.”

I can’t make this stuff up.

Many insects (and some other animals) use a behavior called stridulation, which simply means rubbing one body part against another to produce sound.  Some more familiar examples are the songs of crickets (which rub their wings together) and grasshoppers (which rub their legs against their wings).

But these guys…  These guys “sing” by rubbing their, erm, “bughood” against their abdomens.

No word yet on the state of their eyesight.

But the best part is just how incredibly loud these blokes get when they’re in the mood.  They average 78.9 decibels—about as loud as a freight train.  Relative to body size, that makes them the loudest animals on the planet.  The only reason humanity isn’t being deafened by these lover-bugs is that they make their sweet, sweet love-music underwater, dampening 99% of the sound as it crosses the barrier from water to air.  But even after that, human passersby can still hear them.

For the curious, you can hear recordings of the singing penis (and how many times will I get to say that in my life?) in the BBC Nature article here.

Scientists propose that this might be a case of runaway selection:  Mentioned in an earlier post, this refers to when animals keep demanding bigger and better of their mates, driving the continued growth of things like elk antlers, peacock tails, and this little bug’s positively enormous…sound.

On the off-chance you feel the overuse of cheap innuendo in this article left you hanging (so to speak), here’s a bit of fun trivia (and a fantastic mental image) to make you feel better:  

Relative to body size, the largest penis in the animal kingdom belongs to the barnacle.  

You’re welcome.


About Lauren Maurer Trew

Originally a psychology and zoology student from Florida, Lauren graduated with a master's from the MIT Science Writing program in 2012. Now she works as a freelance writer, editor, and e-publisher.

Posted on 4 July 2011, in Science Reviews and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on Singing Penis Sets World Record.

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