Last night I watched the 6th and final episode of the series ‘Secrets of Bones’ which was called ‘Sex’. As you may have guessed this episode focused on how the skeleton helps attract mates, fight off competition and even perform better. Once again the show features a wide range of animals and their skeletal adaptions which have been shaped by sexual selection.
Before an animal can reproduce it must first attract a mate. This can be in the form of physical features which are appealing to the opposite sex or having the ability to fight off rivals. For some animals the size of their teeth or tusks are used as an indicator of good genes. A good example of this which was featured in the episode was the Mandrill. This primate has a fruit based diet and therefore you would not expect the presence of large canines, however this is the case for the males of this species. As the females eat the same diet these large teeth are obviously unnecessary for processing food and the large canines therefore are a result of sexual selection. Apparently the larger the canines a male has the more successful his will be in attracting a mate.
As mentioned animals will also fight off rivals in order to get access to mates. The episode focused on the bighorn sheep who compete by ramming their heads together and face forces of up to 3500 neutrons – which is pretty impressive! However, for me I found the vertebrate which was shown just before this sheep was pretty cool. This was the Jackson’s chameleon. It has three horns which protrude out the front of it’s head and jousts with other males to try and knock them off their branch and are competing for the best spots to get females. This is why I like this show so much – it features creatures that many people would not have come across before or even thought about! I think that very few people would not learn something new when watching this show and it’s one of the reasons why I think more TV series like this should exist.
And finally I could not leave without mentioning the final segment – the penis bones or baculum. I have heard about these before, but only in passing, during my time at uni. However, I was surprised to hear just how unique humans are with our lack of a penis bone and that an overwhelming 87% of mammals process such a bone! It was also interesting to hear that animals in polar regions are more likely to have a larger penis bone than their relatives who live in warmer climates, e.g. a polar bear’s bone is larger than that of a brown bear. These bones may help the males perform better by supporting the penis and having longer, more frequent amounts of sex.
Unsurprisingly this episode probably received the most media attention. Last week a saw a review of the episode which I commented on in a previous post. The episode also featured on the Channel 4 programme Gogglebox – which I am a fan of. It’s a show which watches people watch TV – sounds odd I know but it’s quite amusing hearing the comments and what people think! I think the majority of the people who were shown watching ‘Secrets of Bones’ found it rather odd. I reminded me that my main interests and passions are typical and seem weird to the average person. Oh well! As long as I enjoy it I’m going to keep reading/researching/being involved with this area!
I’m sorry to see this series end as I thoroughly enjoyed it and learnt something new in each episode. I really hope we see more of Ben Garrod in the future and I wish him, and the team of researchers, the best of luck for the future!