For some crabs at least, size does matter

Source:AFP Published: 2019/1/16 18:23:43

Size does matter, at least when it comes to some hermit crabs, who appear to have evolved longer penises so they can stay in their shells to protect their homes during sex.

The so-called "private parts for public property" theory posited by the research published on Wednesday tackles the question of how penis size relates to home size, for crabs anyway. Crabs that live in shells face the risk that interlopers will try to steal their homes while they are otherwise distracted by mating.

That risk is even more pronounced for certain types of hermit crabs, who "remodel" their shells by removing some internal structures. The renovations make the shells more spacious, but also more difficult to cling onto, particularly in the throes of passion.

As a result, Mark Laidre, an assistant professor of biological sciences at Dartmouth University, began exploring whether the crabs most vulnerable to theft might have evolved longer penises "to facilitate safe sex."

"Longer penises could enable individuals to reach out to sexual partners while simultaneously maintaining a safe grip on their property with the rest of their body, thus safeguarding property against thieves while having sex," Laidre wrote.

To test the theory, Laidre set about the unenviable task of measuring members - specifically, seeing how the penises of 328 specimens of various types of hermit crab stacked up.

If his theory was correct, he expected to find that crabs with the remodeled and most covetable shells would have the longest penises, while those with unmodified shells would have slightly shorter ones, and hermit crabs with no shells would be the least generously endowed of all.

Posted in: CROSS-BORDERS

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