Monday, August 18, 2008

Check this out!!!

From New Scientist

Friday, August 15, 2008

South African squirrels: well-endowed

In two days at the International Society for Behavioral Ecology's annual meeting in Ithaca, New York, I learned about the sexual quirks of dozens of animals, including cichlid fish, Gouldian finches, pipe fish, house mice, prairie voles, great tits, blue tits and even human beings.

Yet I was still taken aback by Jane Waterman's superb talk on the sex lives of African ground squirrels. The University of Central Florida ecologist studies two populations, one in Namibia's Kalahari Desert and another in much more lush South Africa.

Male Namibian squirrels frolic around the desert in small bands, impregnating females and displaying little sexual competition. "Love 'em and leave 'em" is how Waterman described it.

South African squirrels also romp around in social bands, but after a male copulates with a female, he fends off his buddies and leaves a post-coital semen cap in the female's vagina to decrease the chances of another male impregnating her. In short, sexual competition is rife in South Africa.

The South African squirrels look nearly the same as the Namibian squirrels, but for one feature: "They're hung," Waterman said, a likely result of the sexual battle for females.

The animals are so well-endowed that pornographic websites have posted pictures of them.

"If humans had that, they'd have a 35-centimetre scrotum," Waterman said. "That would be bad."

Ewen Callaway, online reporter

[Photograph courtesy of Jane Waterman, University of Central Florida, Orlando]

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