February’s Science on Tap to explore ‘Weird, Wonderful World of Animal Sex’
(Published Jan. 31, 2020)
“I’m about to ruin ‘Finding Nemo’ for you.”
That’s the warning Austin Peay State University biology professor Dr. Mollie Cashner had while sharing a sneak peek at Feb. 4’s Science on Tap presentation: “The Weird, Wonderful World of Animal Sex.”
Clownfish – the type of fish Nemo and his dad, Marlin, are in the movie – are a good example of just how weird sex can be in the animal world.
To find out why “Marlin” actually should be “Marlena” in “Finding Nemo,” you’ll have to attend Science on Tap on Tuesday. Science on Tap happens at 5:30 p.m. on the first Tuesday of every month at Clarksville’s Strawberry Alley Ale Works.
Austin Peay scientists explore a different topic every month. Last month, computer science professor Dr. James Church discussed advances in facial recognition technology. Science on Tap is sponsored by the APSU College of STEM.
The freaky sex of coral, flatworms and angler fish
All animals have the ingrained desire to reproduce but doing something that sounds simple – getting two cells (the sperm and the egg) together – can be complicated and diverse, Cashner said. Reproduction can happen in all sorts of ways.
“From our human bias, we think that those cells somehow magically come together and then there’s a stork that brings the baby,” Cashner said. “That may be how humans do it, but there are lots of other ways, and some of them are pretty freaky.”
“Imagine you’re a coral, you’re literally stuck to the bottom of the ocean floor,” Cashner said. “How do you get your gametes (sperm and egg) to meet?”
The answer might surprise you.
Cashner also will discuss how flatworms use penis fencing, how male angler fish permanently embed in females and how female damselflies deal with overly amorous males.
Sometimes, animal reproduction can be fatal. Attendees will learn about a marsupial that ends its life with nonstop mating and about how male praying mantises can mate even after the female has bitten off their heads.
“There are all sorts of ways, and sometimes reproduction is actually kind of scary,” she said.
To learn more
- Dr. Cashner’s research interests are reproductive behavior in fishes, population genetics and phylogenetics, and reproductive ecology. She teaches animal behavior and genetics at APSU. For more about Cashner, visit www.apsu.edu/biology/cashner or her lab webpage, https://cashnerlab.weebly.com.
- For more about the College of STEM, go to https://apsu.edu/costem.
- For more about the Department of Biology, go to www.apsu.edu/biology.