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10 New Mind-Blowing Discoveries

You have to read it to believe it -- here's 10 crazy things the world learned this week.
 
 
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Photo Credit: Mauro Pezzotta/ Shutterstock.com

 
 
 
 

1. Sex on eight legs

Okay, you think you have kinky sex and I think you have kinky sex, but no one, not the BDSM crowd, not the f urries, not the balloon fetishists have anything on orb spiders. The males, for openers, have two detachable penises or penis equivalents. 

“So what?” you say. “Everyone has a phallus or two in the nightstand.” Touche. But we’re talking about their actual organs, “the arachnid equivalent of a penis,” or palp, and to hear Jennifer Welsch of LiveScience tell it, the sex life of the male is kind of a Faustian bargain that’s surreal enough to make any porn you’ve ever seen look like "A Very Brady Christmas."

For openers, 75 percent of male orb spiders are cannibalized by the far-bigger females during mating. If they get away they may leave one or both palps behind. The palp left inside the female keeps pumping sperm into her and keeps other males from inseminating her -- as he has two palps, she has two openings, called the epigynum (these double sex organs make them the most orgy-ready creature I’ve ever heard of who didn’t live in my building). In order to make sure no other males get a chance he will stay behind and fight off competitors.

And here’s the trade-off: researchers say, the sudden extra lightness he experiences without that wiener weight makes him able to outlast any other males in a fight for the mating privilege. In fact, he’s more than twice as fit to fight if he’s a total eunuch. In a test (one that spiders-rights advocates may not like as it involves neutering or half-neutering and then exhausting the spiders) the endurance of half-eunuchs increased by 32 percent and the endurance of full eunuchs increased by a remarkable 80 percent.

So, the more penis equivalents you give up the stronger you get? A Faustian bargain if ever there was one, but that’s the lot of the orb spider.

Anna Salleh, of ABC Science Online notes that the study was done by researchers at the University of Singapore and offers more information, plus a title that refers to the creatures as “Nonad” spiders. 

Someone get that headline writer an ice cream! And bets on how long it takes that to replace “wimp” in the vernacular.

2. Born this way

If reincarnation is true I think some men who were male orb spiders in their last life come back as gay, having had enough of cannibalizing, palp-thieving females to last them several lifetimes. 

Oddly, scientist have other ideas. 

In a story headlined “ Why are there gay men?” Natalie Wolchover from Life’s Little Mysteries elaborates on the question, saying, essentially, that since gay men are less likely to have sex with women and thus pass on their genes, “why haven't gay man genes driven themselves extinct?”

While recognizing that many factors might account for “the varied array of sexual orientations that exist, in men as well as in women ,” Wolchover focuses on studies from the University of Padova in Italy showing that mothers and maternal relatives of gay men have many more offspring than those of straight men. This supports the "balancing selection hypothesis," which “holds that the same genetic factors that induce gayness in males also promote fecundity (high reproductive success) in those males' female maternal relatives.” These genetic factors get passed on through the fertile Myrtles of the family.

It’s unclear which gene it is, though one appears to be on the X chromosome which is passed on from mom and which men get only one of. If that chromosome holds the gene that “promotes gayness in males and fecundity in females he is likely to be gay while his mom and her female relatives are likely to have lots of kids.” A daughter inheriting the gene might not be gay but her sons might inherit it from her.

 
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