Govt spends $880,000 to study sex life of snails

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How the in-debt-up-to-our-eyeballs feral [sic] government wastes taxpayers’ hard-earned dollars, Part 3.

In addition to $1.5 million to a Boston hospital to study why lesbians are fat, and $385,000 to a Yale University ornithologist to study the length of duck penises, the feral government has also awarded $880,000 to the University of Iowa to study the sex life of the New Zealand mudsnail.

New-Zealand-Mud-SnailThe $880,000 New Zealand mudsnail

NZ mudsnailsThey may be tiny, but the NZ mudsnails have an active sex life!

Matt Cover reports for CNSNews, March 27, 2013, that the National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded a grant for $876,752 to the University of Iowa to study the New Zealand snails to see if it is better that they reproduce sexually or asexually – the snail can do both – hoping to gain insight on why so many organisms practice sexual reproduction.
From the study’s abstract:
“Sexual reproduction is more costly than asexual reproduction, yet nearly all organisms reproduce sexually at least some of the time. Why is sexual reproduction so common despite its costs? This project will use a different organism, Potamopyrgus antipodarum, a New Zealand snail, which has both sexual and independently-derived asexual lineages that make it ideally suited to address fundamental evolutionary questions of how genes and genomes evolve in the absence of sexual reproduction.”
In other words, the study seeks to see if there are genetic advantages to sexual reproduction that justify its evolutionary costs, advantages such as avoiding genetic mutations or gene loss.
In a University of Iowa press release announcing the grant, this is described as the “cost of males” – explaining that female organisms shouldn’t need to produce sons instead of daughters because producing daughters simply involves asexual duplication – which can then duplicate themselves – while male offspring cannot produce other male offspring unaided.
The release says: “[T]he commonness of sex is surprising because asexual females should be able to produce twice as many daughters as sexual females that make both male and female offspring. Despite this and other costs, nearly all organisms reproduce sexually at least some of the time. This means that sex must be associated with profound advantages, while asexual reproduction must have significant evolutionary consequences.”
The broader aim of the study is to find out why sexual reproduction and males exist, arguing that sex is biologically inefficient for females. Because an asexual organism can simply clone itself faster than it can reproduce if it finds a mate, the study seeks to see if there are other benefits to sexual reproduction that outweigh this ‘cost’ of finding a mate.
The all-important research was first funded in 2011 and will continue until 2015.
So far, the grant has paid out $502,357, according to NSF, and could pay out the full $880,000 between now and 2015. The study is funded through what NSF calls a continuing grant meaning that it agrees with the researcher to fund a certain amount, but can end up spending more on the grant if NSF agrees that more money is warranted.
H/t California Political News & Views

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0 responses to “Govt spends $880,000 to study sex life of snails

  1. OMG!…..Just…Just…..OMG! Did these geniuses ever consider the possibility that the females of this species, as well as the species as an intrinsic whole, may actually benefit in the long term simply by adding genetic variety to the snail’s genome thru sexual reproduction? (After all, we know how 1,400 years of inbreeding has led to appalling levels of cognitive dissonance in the muslim mind, lol.) I admit, i’m no biologist, I haven’t a single college credit hour to my name, just a substandard, dumbed-down, 12th grade public school education, but damn, this isn’t quantum physics! An $880,000 grant to study this is ridiculous to say the least, and I suck at math!

  2. While I understand the scientific rationale behind such research, I find some of them very amusing, just as I’m sure they amuse you in some way. What I cannot find amusing is doing this study at a time when we surely have far more pressing matters that need attention. Hardly a moment goes by but I as a human male consider “that sex must be associated with profound advantages, while asexual reproduction must have significant evolutionary consequences.” Seriously, these are matters that have been studied extensively, so I wonder: why another study at this time, and why on a New Zealand species? Surely in Iowa, of all the 48 contiguous states, there must be at least one species of snail that has the same characteristics. In evolutionary theory, sexual selection is considered to be a very steady, consistent behaviour, as stability is required to assure highly similar progeny. But as Nature abhors a vacuum, someone in need of publication has chosen this minutiae to make his/her mark as a scientist. I may be wrong here, but it’s most likely a person who’s attracted to New Zealand’s beaches, and the wildlife found on them. LOL, of course. 🙂

  3. Thanks. Eo, for the smiley face, it’s a great touch, just what this silliness deserves!

  4. Pork-barrel spending at it’s finest .

    • I think the phrase is “at it’s highest and best!” Yeppers, seems pretty piggy piggy, oink oink, to me, especially the beach babes…. Jes’ kidding. ALL IS WELL, and we can go back to sleep: Your Natural Guard is on Watch for You!

  5. Disney made a movie about a dolphin maimed by a fishing net I wonder how much federal money went into the research the prosthetic dolphins now wears? My point is this seems to be a whole lot more important in terms of sequencing genomes and aiding in our understanding of the natural world, rather than spending x amount of dollars on one animal.

    • Did you even read my post, “Peter the Angel”? The news report said the $880,000 NSF research grant is to study why creatures (such as the NZ mudsnail) opt for sexual reproduction instead of asexual reproduction. The research is NOT about sequencing genomes — which, by the way, has already been done, i.e., the mapping of the human genome.

  6. More mean spirited attacks from conservatives. So what else is new.
    Here is the man that will bring much needed reductions in unnecessary spending whil at the same time keeping us sharp and focused.

    • So when I point out that this $880,000 research grant has NOTHING to do with gene sequencing, then you accuse me of being “mean spirited.” Gosh, look who’s being mean spirited! You’d be funny if your psychopathology of projection isn’t so transparent.

    • How is it mean spirited to point out government waste? You approve of spending like this?
      Liberals want to cut defense spending. So what else is new.

  7. liberals want to study the mud snail,at the same time they want to cut spending for our troops,airport security,and air traffic controllers,yep thats a liberal for you!


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