Saturday, February 26, 2005

Of oosiks and blog traffic
PZ Meyers has an interesting post on the evolution of the penis (really!). It seems the penis has evolved several times in amniotes (a group that includes mammals) and, more alarmingly, devolved and disappeared at least once. Meyers talks about the tissue and hydraulics, but leaves out the bone structure. Yes, some mammals have penis bones. I assume the adaptation is for speed. The penis bone is kept in the abdomen and, when needed, a set of muscles push it into a sheath in the fleshy part of the penis. Sliding a bone into and out of a sheath is much faster than waiting for the hydraulics to kick in and limits the time spent mating, which is, after all, vulnerable position.

This is a picture of the gavel that we had made for my father when he was the master of a Masonic lodge in Anchorage. The head is a piece of walrus tusk ivory and the handle is an oosik, a walrus or seal penis bone. As oosiks go, this is small one (about 20 cm long). I have seen walrus oosiks as big as a human femur.

Just for the record, the ivory was purchased from a licensed native craftsman, and this was before export restrictions began. Quite a few lodges in Alaska and Washington have gavels like this among their memorabilia. It's a joke that never gets old. I doubt as if you could get one of these any more.

If this post doesn't up my traffic, I don't know what will. I am, of course posting this, purely in the interests of science.

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