For Deep-Sea Squid, Same-Sex Sex Is Only Half the Story
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« on: September 21, 2011, 04:42:40 am »

Amorous Squid Seeks Partner: Any Sex Will Do
By JAMES GORMAN of The New York Times
September 20, 2011

A five-and-a-half-inch deep-sea squid that lives a solitary life up to half a mile down in the dark waters of the Pacific Ocean is the latest addition to the hundreds of species that are known to engage in same-sex sex. Over the years, scientists have added one creature after another to the list, making it clear that although Nature may abhor a vacuum, it seems to be fine with just about everything else. Male squid, for example, pay no attention to the sex of other squid. Understandably so. They live alone in the dark, males and females are hard to tell apart, and only occasionally do squids pass in the night. Far better to risk wasting a few million sperm than to miss out on a chance to reproduce.

This is only one among many sorts of same-sex sexual behavior. In some insect species, males engage in traumatic insemination, which is just what it sounds like, of other males and females alike. Among mammals, bottlenose dolphins and bonobos engage in lots of different kinds of sex. Male dolphins pursue sex with males and females equally, but the females show a preference for males. Bonobos pair off in all the combinations, often. Laysan albatrosses form long-term female/female pair bonds, but for them the point is raising chicks, not sex. If one female can arrange a quick liaison with a male from another pair, the two females will tend the young. Noah might well have had two female albatrosses on the ark.

But for sheer amazement, the mating behavior of the squid, Octopoteuthis deletron, has to rank near the top. And the same-sex part is the least of it. For the record, Octopoteuthis is the first among the spineless masses of invertebrates known to mate equally with males and females, Hendrik J.T. Hoving and two colleagues report in their paper, “A shot in the dark: same-sex sexual behavior in a deep-sea squid,” published, lurid title and all, in Proceedings of the Royal Society: Biology Letters. No surprise given its life in the deep. The way the squid mate is something else. Little is known about the details but it seems that the male ejaculates a packet of sperm at the mating partner, and the packet turns inside out, essentially shooting the sperm contained in a membrane into the flesh of the partner, where they stay embedded until the female (if the shooter has been lucky) is ready to fertilize its eggs. If males are the recipient of these rocket sperm, they are just stuck with them. It is the kind of mating that would make a good video game.

And the visible evidence of those embedded sperm is what allowed Dr. Hoving and his co-authors to document the squid’s mating choices. They pored over video recordings acquired during almost 20 years of dives by remotely operated vehicles sent out by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, where Dr. Hoving is doing research, to the deep Monterey Canyon off California. One hundred and eight individual squid had been captured on video, and of that number the scientists could determine the sex of 39 of them: 19 females and 20 males. The equal numbers of males and females suggested that the sample was representative. So when they found that of these 39, 9 males and 10 females had embedded sperm — roughly equal numbers — they concluded that males were trying to mate equally with other males and females.

Dr. Hoving, who was leaving for research at sea himself around publication time for his paper, was prepared for attention to the same-sex behavior and was ready for people to conflate squid and human behavior and announce the discovery of gay squid. He fended off that notion, reiterating that the squid has no discernible sexual orientation, and that a tentacled invertebrate that shoots sperm into its mate’s flesh really has nothing to do with human behavior. Marlene Zuk, author of the newly published “Sex on Six Legs: Lessons on Life, Love, and Language from the Insect World,” and a biologist at the University of California, Riverside, agreed. She has written about the evolution of same-sex sex in a variety of insects and other animals, and she added a further caution. Don’t imagine that squid are stupid, Ms. Zuk said, at least about being squid. “The animal is not making a mistake. It’s not mistaken to deposit sperm with another male,” because somehow, the behavior works, or natural selection would have eradicated the behavior or the squid.

And, she said, "we still have squid.”

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« Reply #1 on: September 21, 2011, 04:38:32 pm »

Nature not nurture...........................

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