The birth and death of lock-and-key

For centuries, taxonomists smugly leant back in the knowledge that the amazing diversity in genital forms could be explained with the Lock-and-Key principle. Or, as French fly specialist Léon Dufour conceived it in 1844, “L’armure copulatrice est un organe ou mieux un instrument ingénieusement compliqué, destiné à s’adapter aux parties sexuelles externes de la femelle pour l’accomplissement de l’acte copulatif; elle est la garantie de la conservation des types, la sauvegarde de la légitimité de l’espèce.” That is: “The copulatory apparatus is an organ, or rather an ingeniously constructed instrument, destined to adapt to the female sexual parts for achieving the act of copulation; it is the guarantee for the preservation of types, the safeguard of the legitimacy of the species.”

Sounds plausible, right? but in Chapter 2 of Nature’s Nether Regions, I explain why the lock-and-key hypothesis is now sinking to the bottom of the scientific sea.

The article by Dufour is: Dufour, L., 1844. Anatomie générale des Diptères. Ann. Sci. Nat., 1: 244-264. Unfortunately, this paper is not available online. But much of Dufour’s other work can be found via the goldmine that is the Biodiversity Heritage Library.

One thought on “The birth and death of lock-and-key

  1. Pingback: The phalloblaster, mark 2 | Nature's Nether Regions

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