In his new book Hung Like an Argentine Duck, Australian paleontologist Dr John Long aims to bring the weird and wonderful world of animal sexuality to the masses.
But there are also some interesting insights on human sexuality to be extrapolated from the book, challenging puritanical notions of what is ‘normal’ and ‘natural’: namely, that homosexuality is some kind of man-made choice, and that humans are the only species to indulge in sex for pleasure.
Indeed, once you’ve read Long’s passsages about dildo-wielding porcupines, bat blow jobs and necrophiliac snakes, you may be inclined to think we’re one of the tamer species in the animal kingdom.
“There isn’t any facet of human sexual behaviour that doesn’t already exist in the animal kingdom — the whole gamut of human sexual preference exists in animals in one form or another,” Long animatedly explained to the Star Observer.
“I must admit, a lot of it surprised me. We’re still learning new things all the time. I mention in the book that echidnas regularly have gangbangs, with five males to one female — that research was only published last year.”
Long reveals in the book that more than 1500 species have been shown to display homosexual behaviour. For some, like the “lesbian koalas” of Queensland’s Lonepine Koala Sanctuary, it seems to be a necessary reaction to the stress and relative isolation of captivity. But for most, particularly primates, “it is a natural wild behaviour that develops as one facet of adult animal sexuality”.
“My colleague, Dr Algo Poiani, recently published a book about animal homosexuality, and I quote his statements about how homosexuality fits into evolution. In animals, [homosexuality] seems to be more about kinship and bonding, and how those animals fit in with a wider group or community, as opposed to a one-on-one pairing.”
In other words, those arguing that homosexuality is an evolutionary dead end are taking too narrow a view, with evidence that homosexual animals provide vital caring and support roles in animal communities, free from the burden of their own offspring.
And what of the book’s title character? The Argentine lake duck is one of Mother Nature’s more bizarre creatures, blessed with a 40cm corkscrew-shaped penis that reaches full extension at a rate of 120km per hour.
“The Argentine duck really is the poster boy for sexual evolution. Why would a duck evolve a penis twice as long as its body, when it can’t even put it all the way in a female — or male — of its choosing?”
The answer is that the duck’s extra-long penis is more for show, attracting females in the same way as a peacock’s feathers or a deer’s antlers – size queens of Australia, it appears you have more in common with the female Argentine lake duck than you ever knew.
INFO: Hung Like an Argentine Duck (Harper Collins) out September 1.