Most extreme female penis is found on cave lice | Science News

Love Science? Welcome Home.

Support Amazing Science Journalism.

Create the New Science Generation.


Most extreme female penis is found on cave lice

Insect’s organ can be 15 percent the length of the body, extract sperm from males

1:17pm, April 17, 2014

HERS, NOT HIS  A small female Neotrogla bark louse extends an inflatable, penislike organ (less than a millimeter long, shown in orange), which fits into a vaginalike pocket inside the male of her species and collects his sperm.  

The most dramatic genital-shape reversal known — females with long, insertable organs and males with corresponding pouches — has turned up in bark lice living in Brazilian caves.

A female in each of the four Neotrogla species extends a skinny structure up to 15 percent the length of her body to retrieve sperm from the male’s body, reports entomologist Kazunori Yoshizawa of Hokkaido University in Sapporo, Japan. Depending on the species, a female bark louse can spend up to 70 hours extracting sperm. Males have penislike remnants but can’t deliver sperm with them.

This article is available only to subscribing members. Join the Society today or Log in.

Get Science News headlines by e-mail.

More Life & Evolution articles