- Penis-Fencing: Dangerous or Decadent?
- Certain hermaphroditic flatworms don't come with a sexual orifice pre-installed. Instead, they battle over who gets to penetrate whom. This article, though, isn't just about this fascinating mating stategy--it also touches on the ways political and aesthetic baggage can color what scientists see.
- A Breeding Congress
- Marbled Salamanders of the eastern US mate in vernal pools in the fall, gathering in masses that sometimes contain tens of thousands of individuals. These are called, awesomely, congresses.
Spermatophores, for the uninitiated, are the packets of sperm laid down on a jelly-like base by male salamanders at the peak of sexual stimulation. A female salamander at the appropriate stage of receptivity will straddle a packet, squat, and incorporate the sperm mass into her cloaca. In many species, the courtship activities between male and female are elaborate, with behavioral signals and mating dances lasting for an hour before both individuals are "ready." Such is not the case with marbled salamanders. The frenzied activity of the congress results in spermatophores being deposited everywhere.... Females hardly need to squat, just pick up a spermatophore on the run.