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What’s the easiest way to tell species apart? Check their genitals. Researching private parts was long considered taboo, but scientists are now beginning to understand that the wild diversity of sex organs across species can tell us a lot about evolution.
Menno Schilthuize invites the audience to join him as he uncovers the ways the shapes and functions of genitalia have been molded by complex Darwinian struggles: penises that have lost their spines but evolved appendages to displace sperm; female orgasms that select or reject semen from males, in turn subtly modifying the females’ genital shape.
We learn why spiders masturbate into miniature webs, discover she-dungflies that store
sperm from attractive males in their bellies, and see how, when it comes to outlandish appendages and bizarre behaviors, humans are downright boring.
Menno is the author of the book Nature's Nether Regions (Penguin) is senior scientist at Naturalis Biodiversity Center in Leiden, the Netherlands.