We’ve come to expect the weirdest things, sexually, from hermaphrodites. As I explain in the last chapter of Nature’s Nether Regions, the fact that they can take both male and female roles when they mate, has allowed for the evolution of unusual, sometimes violent, sexual strategies. These strategies are often aimed at persuading the partner to act more feminine than it would otherwise have done.
“Aimed” is to be taken literally here, becuase this often involves the injection of manipulative hormone-like substances. Many land snails use “love darts” for this. But sea slugs are also on the bandwagon. In a new article in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, Rolanda Lange and colleagues publish the results of their study of Siphopteron, very colourful seaslugs. As it turns out, these slugs have a spike on their penis with which they stab their partner during mating. A yet undescribed species, “Siphopteron species 1″ always strikes the head of the partner. But other species target other parts of the body.
A nice write-up on this work, with a few quotes by yours truly, appears in ScienceNews. The story was written by science writer Susan Milius, who also mentions a few words on our earlier love dart work. And another story was on the New Scientist website.