Studying Genital Coevolution to Understand Intromittent Organ Morphology

Integr Comp Biol. 2016 Oct;56(4):669-81. doi: 10.1093/icb/icw018. Epub 2016 Jun 1.


Male intromittent organs are exceedingly diverse, yet we know comparatively little about female genital diversity. However, the most direct mechanical interaction between males and females occurs during copulation, and therefore, genital coevolution is expected to be widespread. This means that diversification of male structures must influence diversity of female genital features and vice versa. As we expand our understanding of coevolutionary interactions between the sexes, we need to expand our knowledge of three basic areas: First, we need quantitative data, on morphological variation of female genitalia. Second, we need to study the mechanics of copulatory interactions, and third, we need to use this understanding to determine which features of genital morphology are under selection, and how their variable morphology and function may affect fitness. Though studying coevolution is certainly difficult, this knowledge is crucial to our understanding of diversity in morphology of the male intromittent organ.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Coevolution*
  • Copulation
  • Female
  • Genetic Variation
  • Genitalia, Female / anatomy & histology
  • Genitalia, Male / anatomy & histology*
  • Male