Quote Of The Day, Part II

February 13th, 2008at 09:00pm Posted by Eli

Olivia Judson ponders how best to commemorate the shared birthday of Charles Darwin and Abraham Lincoln:

I considered observing their joint birthday with a discussion of slave making in ants, but rejected that idea in favor of another.

You see, it’s almost Valentine’s Day, so she decided to speculate on the sex life of the tyrannosaurus instead. Ah, romance.

I want to take a journey 68 million years back in time to see a Tyrannosaurus rex couple mating. What was it like? Did they trumpet and bellow and stamp their feet? Did they thrash their enormous tails? Did he bite her neck in rapture and exude a musky scent? Somehow, I imagine that when two T. rex got it on, the earth shook for miles around.

And if I could only take this journey, I could answer a question that sometimes bothers me. Did T. rex have a penis? Did he even, as lizards do, have two?


The reason we don’t know whether T. rex had one is that the organ is generally too soft to leave a fossil trace. (There’s an exception to this: some mammals have a bone in their penis, the os penis or baculum. This can fossilize. Humans are unusual among primates in not having one; in case you’re wondering, it’s not clear whether the bone plays a role in maintaining erections.)


Moreover, whether a male has a penis at all varies from one group to the next. Male salamanders, for instance, don’t: they deposit sperm on the ground and the female collects it. Among birds, penises are rare: ostriches, emus, ducks, geese and swans are among the few. The rest just have a cloaca – an all-purpose opening also used for urination, defecation and, in the female, laying eggs. To copulate, two birds bring their cloacae together in what’s called a cloacal kiss.

I am so turned on right now.

Anyway, her guess is that male tyrannosaurs did have penises, because their closest living relatives, crocodiles and primitive birds (ostriches, emus, rheas, cassowaries, kiwis and tinamous) did. As to what kind of penis, I guess we’ll never know, unless we get lucky and find a fossilized one, or some miraculously preserved T. rex porn.

Entry Filed under: Coolness,Quotes,Science

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