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Roll over Viagra - This penis regenerates

Posting in Cities

Sea-ing is believing. Japanese scientist witnessed sea slugs like this one growing new penises.

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You might want to ask why they were looking in the first place.

But never mind that, as you try to get your head around this finding reported by the BBC:

"A sea slug that is able to detach, re-grow and then re-use its penis has surprised scientists."

We haven't seen such underwater exploits since Minnie the Mermaid! Japanese researchers who were observing the copulating creatures (no coins slots or seedy viewing booths were involved, as far as I know) noted that:

"The act took between a few seconds and a few minutes, after which the creatures would push away and shed their penises, leaving them on the floor of the tank. However, the researchers were surprised to discover that just 24-hours later, the sea slugs had regenerated their male organs and were able to mate again."

"Penises" - plural? Yes - there's more sluggy salaciousness!

These slimy invertebrates are hermaphrodites that possess both male and female sex organs. When mating, they impregnate each other. According to a Nature write-up of the observations from Osaka City University and Nihon University, the slugs discard their male appendage because during the double dip, the part picks up rival sperm that the slug does not wish to pass along during its next tryst.

And why not peel off the piccolo, if the critter can just grow another in a day? The skilled slug is a type known as a nudibranch, a technical term that somehow seems to have figurative meaning in this case too.

Both the BBC and Nature were summarizing a study entitled Disposable Penis and its Replenishment in a Simultaneous Hermaphrodite, from the journal Biology Letters.

Whose inner 16-year-old does not emerge with headlines like this? I'm thinking that there could be a whole new second act to the "dick tricks" (not my phrase) of the Puppetry of the Penis show. Not that I was ever a fan, but you have to give points for the intrepid exhibitionism.

In the age of genetic engineering, one could also imagine future treatments for penile dysfunction.

And any story of a dismembered member of course brings to mind the unfortunate John Bobbitt. With a little sea sluggery, maybe he could avoid surgery next time his Admiral Winky ends up on the wrong side of a sharp knife.

Photo: Parent Géry via Wikimedia.

— By on February 13, 2013, 1:42 AM PST

Mark Halper

Contributing Editor

Mark Halper has written for TIME, Fortune, Financial Times, the UK's Independent on Sunday, Forbes, New York Times, Wired, Variety and The Guardian. He is based in Bristol, U.K. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure