Penile spines

Once upon a time, perhaps five million years ago, our forefathers may well have had their reproductive organ adorned with spines.  The finding was published this week in the scientific journal Nature, and was discussed at some length in the popular press.

Much like the resemblance between owners and dogs, it’s always a delight to me when names match jobs. So it was a pleasure to discover that the guy who writes on science for the UK Guardian newspaper is called Ian Sample. Another article I linked to in a post from almost a year ago has as one of its authors someone by the name of Hardarson, publishing in the Journal of mineralogy. At the time I also consulted a US text on carbon storage as a supercritical fluid, that includes authors Conn and Mudd. And there truly is a Dr. Kraker in the chiropractic profession, practising in Texas.

Now it’s well known that in various nations the family name is frequently linked to a trade, but if you keep your eyes open you’ll discover many associations like the examples above. Years ago, after my first trip to China, I read a book called Red China Blues, where towards the end there was a story of a doctor who performed penile reconstructive surgery. The physician was the aptly named Dr. Dong. The story itself was remarkable, due to the demand for the wily doctor’s skills.

After all, penis mauling doesn’t seem to be that frequent, which explains why the Lorena Bobbitt story was so popular at the time. These guys merit a Wikipedia entry, and all sorts of other Google prominence (excuse me). You see, even the bob-it surname is contextual! If you type Lorena on Google it’s the second sugestion that you get. Apparently Bobbitt tried his hand (please excuse me again) at porn movies, after his reconstruction. That’s John Wayne, not Lorena. And oh my god, was this all really in 1989? Twenty-two years ago?

A tribute to American entrepreneurial spirit.

Interestingly enough (or not), Lorena’s maiden name was Gallo.

Anyhow, in Chinese rural areas it was not infrequent for young children to have badly mauled penises. This occurred because the kids would be playing around in yards where domestic animals also frolicked. The kiddie poop was in much demand, and occasionally when some unfortunate little boy squatted down to make his contribution to the equally aptly named nightsoil, a besotted pig would come up behind him to scarf and in the enthusiasm consume a little extra protein.

Perhaps if our ancestors hadn’t dropped the spine genes all those zillion years ago, pigs would have learnt a painful lesson. Because these spines exist in chimps, mice, and their arch-enemies, cats. The Guardian informs us that:

In ditching these chunks of DNA, our ancient ancestors lost facial whiskers and short, tactile spines on their penises. The latter development is thought to have paved the way for more intimate sex and monogamous relationships. The loss of other DNA may have been crucial in allowing humans to grow larger brains.

The wicked spines apparently extend on withdrawal, with the (speculative) objective of increasing the chances of fertilization of the female by that particular male. The theories are a little confusing, including the notion that the scraping process will remove the previous occupant’s offerings. It seems to me that it would also be a little offputting, to say the least. Ouch!

Did this promote monogamy? I should think the spines would instead. Or just plain no-gamy-whatsoever. Gamyover. And I actually don’t think we are monogamous – all the societal rules of marriage and conduct are oriented towards enforcing monogamy – which surely wouldn’t be necessary if that was the natural tendency of human beings.

But I can’t possibly quarrel with the notion that an absence of spines leads to greater intimacy. And again on that basis alone you could make the case that spineless sex does not equate to monogamous sex. The lady might feel equally confortable with various partners, rather than increasingly sore at all of them.

I also admit to being confused about the idea that losing DNA leads to larger brains. Although there is something termed the C-value paradox, whereby organisms of greater complexity do not necessarily have larger genomes (more DNA). Some insects, for instance, have larger genomes than humans. As do many fish. Go figure.

It’s been refreshing to dwell on more mundane matters, with all the tragedies of the past week. I urge you to be happy, and reflect on the distance between where you are today and those poor people in Japan and Libya. And in reality this post wasn’t that unrelated to the good colonel and his ilk. After all, today’s theme was dickheads.


One Response to “Penile spines”

  1. Phil Says:


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