Researcher Studying Duck Genitalia Shocked by Ire of Taxpayers
by Betty Butter • 10 July, 2014 • Culture, Politics • 0 Comments
Researchers are feeling defensive these days, with angry taxpayers and bloggers lurking around every corner to pounce on them for their quest to learn how ducks copulate and other fascinating, unsolved mysteries of science.
Scientists who carry out basic research sometimes find themselves unexpectedly caught up in a web of vitriolic public attacks by politicians pretending to expose foolish, dollar-wasting projects. , an evolutionary biologist at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, found this out the hard way.
As she explained last year, Brennan is funded by the to carry out basic research on duck genitalia.
Unlike its cousin applied science, basic science is not intended to address any particular pressing human problem; it is motivated by a wonderful combination of human curiosity, love of knowledge about our world for its own sake and scientific theory.
Few among us would deny the rewards of basic science — both for satisfying human curiosity and as a pipeline for the applied-research projects that may emerge from the basic research. But even ardent supporters of science may wonder: Duck genitalia?
As this reports, Brennan did become the target not just of gentle wonderings, but of scathing attacks. Let’s take a few moments, though, to focus on Brennan’s explanation (in Slate) for what she is discovering:
“Male ducks have elaborate corkscrew-shaped penises, the length of which correlates with the degree of forced copulation males impose on female ducks. Females are often unable to escape male coercion, but they have evolved vaginal morphology that makes it difficult for males to inseminate females close to the sites of fertilization and sperm storage. Males have counterclockwise spiraling penises, while females have clockwise spiraling vaginas and blind pockets that prevent full eversion of the male penis.”
“Our latest study examined how the presence of other males influences genital morphology. My colleagues and I found that it does so to an amazing degree, demonstrating that male competition is a driving force behind these male traits that can be harmful to females.”
Here, then, we find the intersection of male-female sexual conflict and evolutionary adaptation as expressed in the animal kingdom. It’s intriguing stuff, as the science writers and conveyed back in 2009.
Now, in the August issue of the journal Animal Behaviour, Brennan, together with co-authors of San Diego State University and of the University of Oklahoma, has published a commentary called “.” The commentary moves beyond any single research project to reinforce the relationship between basic and applied science, while also acting as a mini-handbook for scientists who wish to respond effectively when politicians (or others) single out their research for scorn.
Read more about the plight of poor, downtrodden, maligned biologists here
Read more at http://blurbrain.com/researcher-studying-duck-genitalia-shocked-ire-taxpayers/#GahQx58vQ43yUUMD.99