Our longtime friend and research associate Kevin McCracken has left the University of Alaska Fairbanks for a new position at the University of Miami. Before he left, his last specimen deposit into the UAM Bird Collection was a cryptic box of pickled bird parts. It was a duck dick dropoff.
In the vast majority of bird species, males lack a penis. But in most Anseriformes (waterfowl) and Paleognathae (ratites and tinamous), males have what we call an intromittent organ. Dr. McCracken has achieved some fame for his repeated exposures on this subject, notably here and here. It is the outrageous size that some male ducks achieve that has created such attention, as the image shows.
This latest specimen deposit takes us into new and rarefied ranks. The University of Alaska Museum now possesses what must be the world’s premier duck dick collection. Science marches forward in strange ways at times…
(Disclaimer: The title of this post was going to be more direct after I read Nicholas Kristof’s column in The New York Times exhorting faculty to make their work and knowledge more accessible to the public. But “Ducks Have Dicks” just seemed a little crass, even if it is much clearer.)