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Flickr User Stephen Childs

Meet the Sea Slug With the Disposable Penis

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Flickr User Stephen Childs

Fans of '90s alternative music may recall King Missile's big single, "Detachable Penis." While the song may have been silly, it turns out than in the animal world, the idea isn't all that bizarre—at least not to the sea slug Chromodoris reticulata.

This odd creature is hermaphroditic, which is pretty common among sea slugs. What isn't all that common, though, is what this particular slug does with its member after copulation. During mating, the two slugs will insert their penises into one another's vaginas. After the slugs go their separate ways, their penises will then sever and float away—but each slug's penis is actually longer than it appears, and the 3 centimeter portion that detaches is just one of three segments. The other two, coiled inside of the slug, have "cells ... different from those in the uncoiled part, which suggests that these replacements must undergo some changes before they can be deployed," Ed Yong writes at National Geographic. The next segment readies itself within 24 hours (researchers have even observed some individuals growing and shedding their appendages over and over in order to copulate three times in three days). When all three segments are spent, the slugs' penises eventually grow back, although no one is sure how long that process takes.

While other animals have been known to shed their penises after mating, so far the slug is the only one that seems to immediately grow the part back, and researchers still wonder at the evolutionary benefit this offers the animals.

Primary photo courtesy of Flickr user Stephen Childs.

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Animals
Why Male Hyenas Have It Worse Than Females
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A life of hunting zebras and raising young on the savanna isn’t half bad for a female hyena. Sadly, the same can’t be said for their male counterparts. As MinuteEarth explains, things take a downturn for the males of the species once they hit adolescence. No female in their pack will mate with them, a behavior scientists believe evolved to avoid inbreeding, so they head off in search of a different group to join. After dealing with vicious hazing from their new clan, they file in at the bottom of the rank and wait for other males above them to die so that they can slowly gain status.

Even after rising through the hierarchy, the most a male hyena can aspire to is being second place to the lowest-ranking female. Thanks to their bulky build and aggressive behavior, female hyenas enjoy a dominant position that’s rare in the animal kingdom.

After watching the video below, head over here for more facts about hyenas.

[h/t MinuteEarth]

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Art
A Beached Whale Sculpture Popped Up on the Banks of Paris's Seine River
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In Paris, dozens of fish varieties live in the Seine River. Now, the Associated Press reports that the famous waterway is home to a beached whale.

Rest assured, eco-warriors: The sperm whale is actually a lifelike sculpture, installed on an embankment next to Notre Dame Cathedral by Belgian artists’ collective Captain Boomer. It’s meant to raise environmental awareness, and evoke "the child in everyone who still is puzzled about what is real and what is not,” collective member Bart Van Peel told the Associated Press.

The 65-foot sculpture has reportedly startled and confused many Parisians, thanks in part to a team of fake scientists deployed to “survey” the whale. One collective member even posted a video on social media, warning Parisians that there “may be others in the water” if they opt to take a dip in the river, The Local reported.

The whale sculpture is only temporary—but as for Captain Boomer, this isn’t their first whale-related stunt. Last summer, the collective installed a similar riverside artwork in Rennes, France, and they also once strapped a large-scale whale sculpture to the back of a truck and drove it around France.

[h/t Associated Press]

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