Who's Got the Biggest Balls?

November 10, 2010

Brit Trogen

The search for the largest testicles in the world has resulted in a rather surprising victor. No, it's not the well-endowed right whale, with his much celebrated pair, each weighing 1100 lbs. Nor is it Chuck Norris, who did, however, challenge you to a "who has more testicles?" contest, and win by 5. 


The victor, with an impressive set accounting for 14% of his body weight, is the Tuberous Bushcricket


Science in Seconds blog Brit Trogen

Nice. To scale, that's like lugging around a pair of testicles weighing around 22 lbs. But while family jewels of that magnitude are undoubtedly useful for inter-species bragging rights, this seems a bit much. Let's face it: how much sperm does one cricket really need?


Strangely, in comparison to other less testicularly fortunate crickets, the males of this species were found to produce rather little sperm in their ejaculates. So what gives? Do female bushcrickets have some bizarre fetish for massive internal testes? Could sexual selection be to blame? What could possibly be so important that you need to devote your entire abdomen to it, if not sperm production?


Science in Seconds blog Brit Trogen

The traditional view of big balls has been that they produce massive amounts of sperm, to overwhelm any sperm from competing males that happen to be hanging out in a female. Testicle size tends to increase in species with promiscuous females, contributing to this view. But according to researchers at the University of Cambridge, the reality might be slightly different. This cricket, for example, may actually use his massive testicles merely as storage to enable mating with multiple females without running out, with small amounts of sperm being used on each.


In other words, it's a sexual free for all. That chirping will never sound the same again...



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