Seminar: Darwin Day — “The Coevolution and Elaboration of Waterfowl Genitalia”
Towsley Professor of Biology Mark McKone will use Darwin's concept of coevolution to explain changes in genital elaboration. Most birds entirely lack an intromittent organ (IO, also called phallus or penis). Waterfowl (Order Anseriformes) have retained an IO, and in some species the IO has become greatly elaborated in form and size. Recent work has shown that the vagina of these species has become comparably elaborated. The prevailing hypothesis to explain this mutual genital elaboration is antagonistic coevolution between females and males. However, the nature of this intersexual conflict is not clear and requires further exploration. Based on Darwin’s concept of coevolution between certain orchids and their moth pollinators, Mark proposes a mechanism for the intersexual conflict that drives genital elaboration in waterfowl.