mobile-bannertablet-bannerdesktop-banner
The female penis of the Neotrogla aurora insect species is seen in an undated handout photo released April 17, 2014.
The female penis of the Neotrogla aurora insect species is seen in an undated handout photo released April 17, 2014. Reuters

Female 'Penis' Found on Brazilian Cave Insects

Apr 18, 2014

Scientists have discovered several species of insect in a cave in Brazil that display what they say are the world’s first discovered instances of female “penises.”

The four species of insect, which live in dry Brazilian caves and feed on bat guano, display something scientists are calling an “evolutionary novelty”: full-on, anatomical sex-role reversal. Though rare, instances of sex-role reversal have been found in other animals before, but this is the first time the “intromittent organ,”—the male organ—is reversed, Reuters reports.

During mating, the female receives sperm by inserting a penis-like organ, which scientists call a gynosome, into the male, which they can hold in place against the male’s will.

“Because the female anchoring force is very strong, a male’s strong resistance may cause damage to his genitalia,” said entomologist Kazunori Yoshizawa. “Therefore, it is very likely that entire mating processes are controlled actively by females, whereas males are rather passive.”

The sex-role reversed insects, which all belong to the genus Neotragla, may be on to something—mating sessions can last from 40 to up to 70 hours long.

[Reuters]

All products and services featured are based solely on editorial selection. TIME may receive compensation for some links to products and services on this website.