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The complicated sex lives (and genitals) of ducks.

Eversion in air: from blogs.discovermagazine.com/loom from Carl Zimmer on Vimeo.

Competition within–and between–the sexes have long had a way of influencing biology. Deer grow antlers with which to battle each other, peacocks flaunt elaborate tails to attract peahens. But none of these can hold a candle to the wonders that are duck genitals.

Normally hidden inside a pouch, the erect duck penis extends to an astonishing 20cm (approx 8 inches)–or about a quarter of the bird’s total body length. But it’s not just the size that’s impressive: the penis itself is a winding, complicated corkscrew of flesh, covered with all sorts of bumps and spines and ridges (see it in full in the video above). Why the complicated phallus? It’s intended to give a drake the advantage against rivals who might attempt to force themselves on their ladies.

But wait, there’s more: female ducks–who are none too keen on being forced into sex–have developed their own defense system, with a winding, complicated vagina that creates a maze (complete with several dead ends) to help prevent unwanted sperm from achieving insemination.

And you thought humans had complicated sex lives…

Ballistic penises and corkscrew vaginas – the sexual battles of ducks [scienceblogs.com, via BoingBoing]

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