This wasp uses its prickly penis to escape certain death

By | December 20, 2022

Only female wasps carry the equipment necessary to sting predators and inject them with toxins. It’s therefore widely thought that male wasps are completely defenseless — but now, a study shows how some male wasps can escape certain death using nonvenomous but extremely spiky genitalia.

Two thin, retractable “genital spines” lie on either side of the male mason wasp’s (Anterhynchium gibbifrons) phallus. Some wasps use such spines to hold females in place during mating, but male mason wasps don’t appear to do so, at least not in laboratory settings, according to a new study published Monday (Dec. 19) in the journal Current Biology (opens in new tab). Instead, the wasps brandish their spiky phalluses only when confronted with a perceived predator — like the hand of a human scientist.

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