Make My Day
NEWSFLASH: SEX MAKES YOU STUPID
by Erik Deckers
American Reporter Humor Writer
SYRACUSE, Ind. -- It's official: sex makes you stupid. At least if you're a bat.
This is according to a scientific study released in December 2005. Biologist Scott Pitnick of Syracuse University analyzed 334 species of bats to see if there was a correlation between the size of a male bat's testes and its brain. He found that if a species had more promiscuous females (meaning they mated more often with different bats), the males of the species had larger testes and smaller brains. But if the females were monogamous (had only one mate), the males had smaller testes and larger brains.
In other words, the more sex the bats had, the less evolved their brains were.
This is what is known in scientific circles as an inverse correlation. Among college-aged men, it's known as very bad news. It would also explain one church's recent monogamy publicity campaign: "Being Faithful is Just Plain Smart."
The results of the study have met with shock and concern, as people around the world ask, "Wait, you mean people can actually get jobs studying bat testicles?"
The study, "Mating system and brain size in bats" was published in the Journal of Icky Things I Wish I Didn't Know. Actually, it was published in the online British journal, "Proceedings of the Royal Society: Biological Science," which requires a subscription to access the articles, apparently to keep immature journalists like me from writing about it.
I first heard about the story at a meeting, where the news was met with guffaws and hoots of laughter. I'm sure the story raised a few eyebrows in newsrooms around the world. It has also prompted more than one wife to holler at her husband, "See?! See?! I told you you'd go stupid if we did that too much."
But this is a serious scientific discovery, and is worthy of greater discussion, rather than being reduced to schoolyard humor with a bunch of inane jokes. Like about how this only proves men only have one thing on their mind. Or they think with their reproductive system. Or these two bats walk into a bar and - never mind.
It's so serious in fact, that entire careers have been based on the study of reproductive systems of animals. So serious that Dr. Pitnick has published at least 31 other studies having to do with animal reproduction. So maybe that's why he's able to say things like this with a straight face:
"If female bats mate with more than one male, a sperm competition begins," Pitnick said in an Associated Press story. "The male who ejaculates the greatest number of sperm wins the game, and hence many bats have evolved outrageously big testes."
How outrageous? According to the study - which was co-authored by Kate Jones of Columbia University and Gerald Wilkinson of the University of Maryland - in species with promiscuous females, males had testes ranging anywhere from 0.6 percent to 8.5 percent of their total body mass. (That's the equivalent of a 200 pound man carrying around an extra 17 pounds.) In the species with monogamous females, the range was anywhere from 0.11 percent to 1.4 percent.
However, in the monogamous species, the average male brain size was about 2.6 percent of body weight - that's a 5.2-pound brain for a 200 pound man - whereas the average size for the oversexed bats was 1.9 percent, or 3.8 pounds. There was no indication of whether that meant that the less virile bats were also 55 percent smarter than the oversexed bats. Although I'm sure that's what the bigger-brained bats told themselves.
Believe it or not, these results surprised Pitnick, Jones, and Wilkinson, who had originally predicted that there would be a direct correlation between the two (bigger brain equals bigger testes). According to NewScientist.com, Pitnick and his colleagues had figured that in species with non-monogamous females, males would need bigger brains "in order to avoid being cuckolded."
But since brains and sperm cells both require a lot of energy, it could be that the different species evolved a preference for developing the organ that will help them reproduce more effectively.
Or it could just be a biological tradeoff, as most men fear. Men want to be both intelligent and virile, and most men hope they can achieve both. But if these studies translate into the human realm, it may mean bad news for those men who measure success through sexual
So they can do what these men have done for years: get a shiny red sports car and new hair plugs. It beats waiting for some scientist to administer an IQ test and start poking around your pants.