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Icerya Purchasi, Cottony Cushion Scales, 'Could Eliminate The Need For Males'

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Perhaps women really don't need men. According to researchers at Oxford University, hermaphroditism and self-mating among cottony cushion scales (Icerya purchasi) is leading to the disappearance of male members of the species.

The insects, found worldwide, are able to mate with themselves in a bizarre process that is extremely rare in the animal kingdom.

According to Discover Blogs, the insect, which occupies a female body, is left with a parasite by its father which produces sperm. This parasitic sperm also infects the offspring after conception, continuing the cycle of self-reproducing females. Not only are the new insects hermaphroditic, they are also incestuous, the blog writes. In fact, the self-reproducing insects become father, mother, grandfather and grandmother to all of their grandchildren.

ScienceDaily reports that researchers Andy Gardner and Laura Ross found “once the parasitic fathers become widespread in a population, females will be inclined to reproduce with them instead of regular males.”

Despite the implications for male cottony cushion scales, writes that this trend has only been observed in the past three years. The future disappearance of the male insect has only been predicted with a mathematical model.

While the cottony cushion scale is one of only three insects to exhibit this behavior, many other insects and animals engage in strange mating rituals. While hermaphroditism is most common in invertebrates like snails and slugs, some fish also exhibit this trait.

Several weeks ago, researchers at London's Natural History Museum were stunned by the birth of a half-male, half-female butterfly. A battle of the sexes is also occurring among African bat bugs, which according to NewScientist, “turn transsexual to avoid stabbing penises.” Photo courtesy of Pau Artigas.

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