A "spare" compensates for the risk of destruction of the elongated penis of earwigs (Insecta: Dermaptera)

Naturwissenschaften. 2001 Nov;88(11):468-71. doi: 10.1007/s001140100259.


Male animals in several groups have multiple intromittent organs that outnumber the corresponding female gonopore. In Dermaptéra (earwigs), males of the family Anisolabididae have paired, elongated male intromittent organs (virgae), while females have a single sperm-storage organ (spermatheca). Several authors have assumed that one of the paired virgae is non-functional, because it points in the "wrong" direction. We investigated the mating success of handicapped males of Euborellia plebeja in which one of their paired virgae was removed experimentally. These handicapped males succeeded in inseminating a mate. Males with genital damage are found in the field, suggesting that the "spare" functions under natural conditions. Based on phylogenetic information on earwigs, we discuss possible evolutionary scenarios for this genital peculiarity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Insecta / anatomy & histology*
  • Insecta / physiology
  • Male
  • Penis / anatomy & histology*
  • Penis / physiology
  • Sexual Behavior, Animal