Earwigs' sexual antics give scientists the willies

Study finds that evolutionary biologists' research focuses predominantly on male reproductive organs

Evolutionary biologists appear to be strangely obsessed with male genitalia, a new study says.

Researchers found that nearly 49 per cent of 364 scientific papers on reproductive organs over the past 25 years dealt only with male parts, while less than 8 per cent looked at only females. About 44 per cent looked at both. The trend was particularly strong in relation to studies of mammals, with more than 60 per cent focusing on male genitalia only.

Malin Ah-King, co-author of a paper in the journal PLOS Biology, said the scientific bias towards the male role in reproduction dated back at least as far as Charles Darwin. In his 1871 book, The Descent of Man, he wrote: "Males of almost all animals have stronger passions than females. The female … with the rarest of exceptions, is less eager than the male … she is coy."

She said the study's findings showed that "even though the worst stereotypes have been abandoned by now, we still have a theoretical framework that is focusing more on the male side rather than the female".

She said there was also an "assumption" in the field that female genitalia "don't vary much", but added that it was hard to tell, given the lack of studies. However, the small amount of research that has been done suggests there could be significant differences among females.

Dr Ah-King, of the Centre for Gender Research at Uppsala University, Sweden, together with colleagues at Australia's Macquarie University, found that it made no difference to the focus of study whether a paper's lead author was female or male.

She said there were a number of examples which demonstrated that "when you look at both sides of the equation, you learn much more".

Dr Ah-King cited the earwig. Its penis, properly called its virga, has a fringe-like adaptation at the tip which is used to scoop out a rival's sperm from the female. "If you look at it, you'd think it must be very efficient to scoop out the sperm from previous males," she said. However, the virga is typically not long enough to reach all the sperm, so, the researchers concluded, the female retains control of the paternity of her offspring.

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
There are no plans to replace R Kelly at the event
music
News
newsThis 8-year-old boy carried his disabled brother through a triathlon
Sport
The Manchester United team walk out ahead of the pre-season friendly between Manchester United and Inter Milan at FedExField
transfers
Life and Style
fashionHealth concerns and 'pornified' perceptions have made women more conscious at the beach
News
i100
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Lead Application Developer

£80000 - £90000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: I am current...

Year 3 Welsh Teacher vacancy in Penarth

£110 - £120 per day + Travel Scheme and Free training: Randstad Education Card...

Senior Developer - HTML, CSS, PHP, JavaScript, VBA, SQL

£30000 - £35000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: We are working with one o...

Male Behaviour Support Assistant vacancy in Penarth

£55 - £65 per day + Travel Scheme and Free Training: Randstad Education Cardif...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

Will Gore: Outside Edge

The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz