But once they scanned the bugs, they learned a whole lot about these complex components, and how strange they really are. Male grasshoppers have external parts to help support and latch onto the female parts. They also have an internal genital chamber, which contains a phallic complex, support structures for gripping and stimulating the female’s genital, an ejaculatory duct, and plenty of other structures for support and leverage. The female, meanwhile, has her own chamber designed to receive sperm and guide eggs, as well as a piece keep the whole thing shut.

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The apparatuses lock together in the craziest copulative act you’ll hear about today: As Woller explained to us, the male grasshopper mounts the female, and flips the roof of his back end inside his body, pushing out the phallic complex which was previously inside his body. The male inflates the phallus like a balloon. The inflated genitalia hooks onto the female’s and inserts itself.

This might sound weird, but it gets even weirder across grasshopper species. You wouldn’t know the difference between the two dozen species Woller studies until you looked at their genitalia, which can be all different shapes and sizes. It’s kind of the way that Charles Darwin could tell the difference between finch species, but with genitals.

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“Like Darwin’s sexy finches,” Woller said.

Luckily, if you’ve got any more interest in grasshopper genitals, Woller would be “delighted to discuss the details.”

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[Entomology Today]