Reproduction is fundamental to biology. Without the physical act of sex, finite organisms would expire and much life would cease. Despite this essential role in the continued existence of species, surprisingly little is known about the functional biomechanics of and structural variation among male and female copulatory organs.
This deficit was addressed during the January 2016 Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology (SICB) symposium The Morphological Diversity of Intromittent Organs co-organized by Sewanee Biology Professor Brandon Moore and Dr. Diane Kelly of the University of Massachusetts: Amherst. This National Science Foundation-supported event gathered 11 researchers who study male copulatory organs of species as diverse as barnacles, beetles, and bats to consider the functional similarities and differences found within the animal kingdom.
This first of a kind symposium drew national media coverage and produced in-depth media pieces in Science and Science News. Further, a symposium-associated poster session highlighted research by post-doctoral fellows, graduate students, and undergraduate researchers, including current Sewanee student Reeda Shakir.
The fundamental scientific knowledge communicated during the symposium is crucial to advance theoretical biological understanding of the evolution and diversity of sexual strategies and to practical biology applications, giving a mechanical understanding of copulation aiding in successful artificial insemination programs that maintain endangered species.