River otter penis strength is sagging due to pollution — no bones about it!
Toxic chemicals from the oil industry in Canada have caused the critters’ penis bones to become less dense and more breakable, according to a study, which warns the findings could impact humans.
Researchers at McMaster University looked at the long, curvy penis bone — known as a baculum — belonging to otters in areas near crude oil hubs in northern Alberta, according to the study, which was published in the journal Chemosphere this month.
They found that otters closer to the oil sites had flimsier phalluses.
“We do find, for the most part, that a river otter [penis] is stronger, stiffer and denser at the low impact of those control sites — so in areas with usually lower levels of some of these hydrocarbons,” the study’s author Philippe Thomas told the CBC.
Having a frail penis bone could impact the animal’s ability to reproduce, Thomas said. He added that pollution could have the same impact on species higher up in the food chain.
Overall, scientist found that wildlife numbers had plunged in Fort Chipewyan, one of the areas closest to the oil operations.
The researchers — who scanned and measured the bones — also found contaminants such as iron and the hydrocarbon were linked to penis strength.
While discussing the penis weakness, one researchers admitted she found it hard to keep a straight face.
“It was a new area of research for my lab group, certainly,” said Cheryl Quenneville, an associate professor in mechanical and biomedical engineering at McMaster University. “I have to admit there were a few jokes flying around.”