Search is on for missing pieces in puzzle of male genital diversity | Science News

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Search is on for missing pieces in puzzle of male genital diversity

Subtle female shapes and even highway planning could affect evolution

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6:00am, January 15, 2016
walrus

WILD ANATOMY  The much-discussed question of why male animals (walrus shown) can differ so much in genital anatomy could use some fresh approaches.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Crazily diverse shapes of male genitals across the animal kingdom — from curlicues and Y-tubes to multiknobbed, tendrilly whazzits — may evolve faster than any other animal structures. Biologists have spent more than a century debating how to explain such fast and extreme variation.

Now it’s time to search for explanations in two overlooked places: the female side of sex and the vast variety of places where animals live, researchers proposed early January at the annual meeting of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology.

Figuring out why male genitals of a species often differ sharply from even its closest relatives’ involves basic, big ideas in biology, said Brandon Moore of Sewanee: The University of the South in Tennessee, who coorganized a symposium on genital diversity. Species arise, flourish or fail depending on whether animals mate and produce offspring or not. “This is where the

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