The Barnacle

The males of one species of barnacle, Cryptophialus minutus, have gigantic genitalia. Charles Darwin described the Cryptophialus penis so: "wonderfully developed . . . when fully extended, it must equal between eight and nine times the entire length of the animal! . . . [The barnacle] has an orifice at its upper end, and within it there lies coiled up, like a great worm, the probosciformed penis . . . there is no mouth, no stomach, no thorax, no abdomen, and no appendages or limbs of any kind." Just cock.

Darwin is recognized to be a great naturalist and innovator, however he turned a blind eye to aspects of animal behavior that challenged conventional notions about female monogamy, perhaps fearing that people would extrapolate from animal to human behavior in an era that was very conservative. Few things have been drilled into popular consciousness like the idea of competition among males to mate with females and watching nature programs today, one still finds a lack of representation of the flipside of this. In many species, there is a high rate of polyandry, that is, females will mate with several males to get the best sperm and then rear young with a male who is unwittingly the father to other offspring of other males.

Darwin's works about barnacles, more obscure than his other writings, are unique in the sense that he examines sexual repdroduction more deeply. He described a female barnacle to Charles Lyell so, "the other day I got the curious case of a unisexual, instead of a hermaphrodite, cirripede [barnacle], in which the female had the common cirripedal character, and in two of the valves of her shell had two little pockets, in each of which she kept a little husband; I do not know of any other case where a female invariably has two husbands." In another species of barnacle, he discovered fourteen "little husbands' inside a female.

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