Art made of Aedeagus

Well, sort of. An artist down under has created an exhibit of insect penises.  (Or, to use the proper name for insect intromittent organs, aedeagi.)

Dr Freud could not have conjured a more disturbing fantasy. Yet all these male members are real. These are insect penises – magnified, modelled, photographed or rendered in glass and resin.

Creepy, beautiful and seemingly wildly impractical for the job, their diversity suggests that sometimes, Dr Freud, a cigar is most definitely not just a cigar.

All have been created by Sydney artist Maria Fernanda Cardoso….Cardoso is also creating what she calls her Museum of Copulatory Organs – or MoCO – for the Sydney Biennale this year. 

photo of artistI love it when art and science meet up! You can see a gallery of Cardoso’s sculpures on her website.

If you aren’t an entomologist, you may not understand our obsession with genitalia. It’s not because we are all pervs.  Well, it’s not just because we are all pervs.  Insects made us interested in gonads.

There are lots of very similar looking insects.  There are millions of little brown moths and little black beetles. Sometimes the only way to tell similar looking insects apart is to look at the naughty bits.  Because species are defined by reproductive isolation, similar looking outsides may hide radically different-looking innards.

For at least 100 years, entomologists have been hunched over insect nether parts, trying to figure out what species they were looking at. To make things more complex, male insect parts are stored inside the body.   Since there is …..shrinkage….after death, the squidgy bits are commonly removed from specimens and stored in in tiny vials full of preservative.

The study of insect genitalia is so important, all sorts of devices have been invented and devised for just that purpose.  For example, the phalloblaster.  Some clever Aussies invented a device to…Err. Apply pressure in the proper spot?  This allows expansion of the male genitalia to see important details.

“The Phalloblaster inflates the genitalia with a stream of pressurised alcohol to create the same shape as when the insect was alive.”

The alcohol dehydrates and hardens the structure, so that once the process is over the genetalia remain inflated rather like miniature balloons. It makes them easier to study.”

t-shirtOf course, this device is properly called the vesica everter.  But who the hell would call it that when you can say PHALLOBLASTER?  (You can visit this page and see a post-mortem insect “erection” in action.)

If you would like to look at more photos of bug dongs studied using the Phalloblaster, you can check out this article on bumpy beetle penises.

Also, for Earth Day, you can get a Bug Girl t-shirt or mug 22% off!  Use code ZAZZLESALE22.

Citation to prove that the Phalloblaster is serious science:

Matthews, M. (1998). The CSIRO vesica everter: a new apparatus to inflate and harden eversible and other weakly sclerotised structures in insect genitalia Journal of Natural History, 32 (3), 317-327 DOI: 10.1080/00222939800770161

7 thoughts on “Art made of Aedeagus

  1. Those sculptures are great! Even though I’m not a proper entomologist, I’ve always found aedeagi fascinating. And, by the way, sperm (both insect and otherwise). I’d buy some art based on all the weird sperm designs that exist in nature.

  2. What is the big deal? Botanists are just as obsessed about genitalia and nobody bats an eyelash. Look at all the art made of plant sex organs, think of Georgia O’Keeffe among others. And, isn’t it romantic to give a bunch of botanical genitalia to your beloved?

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