If there's a case to be made for intelligent design, we're not sure it should begin with the spiny dogfish. The fact is, their reproductive acts are nothing short of disturbing. If you're up for the nature's greatest argument for faking headaches, read on.
To conceive, the male grasps the female's fins with his mouth and uses his two reproductive organs, known as claspers, to get the female pregnant. But this is no gentle act of foreplay. The sharp claspers leave deep cuts and gashes behind the female's head, which take a week or so to heal. Once that's over, the female has a glorious 22 to 24 months of pregnancy to look forward to—the longest gestation period of any vertebrate. And when the magical day finally arrives, you'd better believe she's wondering where the heck her epidural is. Spiny dogfish mommies give birth to as many as eleven 3-ft long pups, each coming out head first. And while evolution has equipped the pups with cartilaginous sheaths on their spines to protect the mother from (further) injury, it still hardly sounds pleasant.
To read more of Maggie Koerth-Baker's Worst Story, pick up the back issue here.