Bug Blog

The Ig Nobel Prize Has Been Awarded To Researchers Who Discovered Insects With Reversed Genitalia

You have likely heard of the Nobel Prize, but the Ig Nobel Prize may be unfamiliar to you. As you can already figure out, the word “ignoble” is spelled out by adding an “Ig” to the front of the name “Nobel.” Obviously, these awards are granted just for fun, and the ceremonies are full of super-smart scientists getting silly. Despite the meaning of the word “ignoble,” these prizes are still an honor to receive, as only a hardworking scientist, or group of scientists, could ever win one of these awards. The awards are given to scientists who have discovered something trivial or have decided to focus their studies on a humorous subject. The awards are granted every year toward the beginning of fall. This year, a group of researchers won the Ig Nobel Prize for discovering a type of insect with an unusual sexual anatomy. Male insects that belong to the genus referred to as Neotrogla posses inner and outer female reproductive organs known as gynosomes; of course, the females of this genus possess a phallic-like male genitalia.

This is not an everyday sight, even for entomologists. Naturally, learning more about how such bizarre insects copulate is a necessity. Copulation between these insects can last for forty to seventy hours–as you can imagine, there would be plenty of moments of confusion during that time. During copulation, the males produce the ejaculate necessary for fertilization through their female reproductive organ, the gynosome. The male-gynosome, if you will, was composed of muscles, membranes, ducts and spikes. The researchers believe that this reversal in anatomy occurred as a result of “reversed sexual selection” where females competed for “seminal gifts.”

This year Harvard hosted the ceremony where ten prizes are given for strange scientific discoveries. The topic of the ceremony was “uncertainty.” The researchers responsible for the sexually peculiar insect discovery won the biology prize, which is only one of ten prizes given during the ceremony.

Would you be interested in learning about more insect-related research that had been awarded an Ig Nobel Prize? Have you ever heard of any other arthropod related research that had been granted either a Nobel Prize, or an Ig Nobel Prize? If you have, then which insect/s were involved?