Squirrels Masturbate in the Name of STD Protection [LiveScience 2010-09-29]
[Photo] These ground squirrels may get off in the name of STD protection. Credit: Hans Hillewaert / CC-BY-SA-3.0
Who knew that choking the chicken could be so cleansing? Well-endowed Cape ground squirrels may have hit upon masturbation as a way to lower the odds for contracting a sexually transmitted disease (STD), acccording to a new study.
The theory comes from Jane Waterman, a researcher who has spent 2,000 hours peeping through binoculars at the Cape ground squirrels in Namibia. She watched many a male sit down and orally pleasure himself while simultaneously stimulating the erect penis with his forepaws.
Males of many species may masturbate when they can't find a willing female, or to clear out the old sperm and boost their sperm quality just before mating. But neither of those theories fit with the Cape ground squirrel masturbators - the most common culprits turned out to represent dominant males who masturbated most frequently after mating.
The masturbation in these cases also did not make sense as a signal for either rival males or females, based upon Waterman's discreet observations from afar.
That led Waterman to the STD protection theory. Masturbation allows the squirrels to clean the outside of their genitals and flush out the inside as well, which may prove just about the best tactic for a species without access to modern medicine or better preventive measures.
If this explanation holds up, perhaps Conan may have found a new replacement for his Masturbating Bear character on late night TV.