Wednesday, 1 August 2012

A Failing of Human Evolution; One of Many

Animals generally have cool things that a lot of people wish had stuck around a bit longer in the evolutionary path. Take, for instance, Batman and Spiderman, who may have taken their desire for animal abilities a bit too far. But I would bet that most people would gladly take wings if they were offered them, or gills, or the ability to leap between trees like squirrels and other cool stuff that just feels like it would be nice. We put far too much importance on things like sporting events for it not to be an obvious remnant of the physical prowess necessary for summoning mates in the animal kingdom.

Generally, we can live without these things. We have the intelligence to design transport so we don't need to be as proficient and travelling long distances, for example, and we've invented shoes so we don't need to have the protection animals get from paws. In fact, we have the intelligence to design machines to deal with pretty much everything that our increasingly lazy species can't be bothered to do with our own bodies, so these advantages that animals have over us aren't all that important.

And then this spider comes along and says, "Fuck you, mankind, bet you wish you had THIS..."

This is a giant wood spider called Nephila pilipes and in this species many tiny males compete for the attention of huge females, which can grow to between seven and ten times the size of the males. During copulation, males are known to sever their own genitals in order to plug the female stop other males breeding with their chosen mate. This is common, particularly among insects, and biologists with far too much time on their hands have documented it extensively.

This is a crafty technique - and the girls have caught on.

A team of researchers found that, when many males were converging on one female, the female can produce an amorphous plug to fill her genitals for the period during which she is laying eggs to prevent being impregnated again. The researchers came to the conclusion that this mechanism is a way of preventing "unwanted or excessive copulation".

Essentially, these spiders have developed a way to avoid being raped when they're busy doing other things.

Now, people may not always be busy doing other things, but no one wants to get raped. Even people who fantasise about getting raped, don't really want to be raped. By definition, rape is sex without consent.

Of all the things that evolution has kept in the human body - take, say, the appendix, which has lost all of its function in the evolutionary process aside from one day exploding and killing you from within - why not this one? This seems pretty damn useful, especially considering the closest we, as a species, have come to preventing "unwanted copulation" is this nasty-looking bastard:

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