Getting down and dirty underwater

sriimg20071116_8427750_0.jpgHere’s some news that will make men sit up and take notice: researchers have pinpointed an “oral sex” gene that makes females suck up sperm through their mouths. The gene was found in the cichlid fish, where the males have evolved a way to lure females close so that they can squirt sperm into their mouths. In cichlids, females keep their eggs in their mouths and incubate them there. As soon as a female has spawned her eggs, she collects them up in her mouth. Normally, sperm released into the water by a male nearby will then fertilise the eggs. But males of one cichlid species in east Africa has improved his chances of being a daddy. Yellow markings resembling the eggs are found on the anal or pelvic fins. According to Walter Salzburger of the universities of Lausanne, Basel and Konstanz, when a female approaches the male, she thinks she sees an egg on its fin and tries to suck it – getting a mouthful of sperm in the process. Salzburger says this shows that the dummy egg spots are a genetic trait that provides a selective advantage because they encourage females to participate in oral mating.

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