Why Humans Don’t Have a Baculum

This is about one of the greatest unsolved mysteries of all time, so pay close attention. In the US edition of The Guardian, a British newspaper, we find this headline: Why don’t humans have a penis bone? Scientists may now know. The newspaper article already has over 1,000 comments. Here are some excerpts from the news story, with bold font added by us for emphasis:

It can be as long as a finger in a monkey. In the walrus, it can be two feet long. [Egad!] But the human male has lost it completely. And researchers are a little stumped. Known as the baculum to scientists with an interest, the penis bone is a marvel of evolution.

A marvel of evolution? Then why don’t we have one? The Guardian says:

It pops up [as it were] in mammals and primates around the world, but varies so much in terms of length and whether it is present at all, that it is described as the most diverse bone ever to exist.

Interesting description. After that the newspaper tells us:

Prompted by the extraordinary differences in penis bone length found in the animal kingdom, scientists set out to reconstruct the evolutionary story of the baculum, by tracing its appearance in mammals and primates throughout history. They found that the penis bone evolved in mammals more than 95 million years ago and was present in the first primates that emerged about 50 million years ago. From that moment on, the baculum became larger in some animals and smaller in others.

Verily, the designer works in mysterious ways. The Guardian continues:

Kit Opie who ran the study with Matilda Brindle at University College London, said that penis bone length was longer in males that engaged in what he called “prolonged intromission.” In plain English, that means that the act of penetration lasts for more than three minutes, a strategy that helps the male impregnate the female while keeping her away from competing males.

Oh — longer than three minutes. To the researchers, that explains why humans don’t have a baculum. This is their paper, published in Proceedings of the Royal Society: Postcopulatory sexual selection influences baculum evolution in primates and carnivores. You can read it online without a subscription. We’ll stay with The Guardian, which says:

In chimps, the penis bone is no longer than a human fingernail. The tininess of the bone correlates with the very short spell that the male spends mating, in the order of seven seconds.

Seven seconds? Oook, oook! Let’s read on:

Humans may have lost their penis bones when monogamy emerged as the dominant reproductive strategy during the time of Homo erectus about 1.9 million years ago, the scientists believe. In monogamous relationships, the male does not need to spend a long time penetrating the female, because she is not likely to be leapt upon by other amorous males. That, at least, is the theory.

Or perhaps the baculum was removed removed because of the disobedience of Adam & Eve. Anyway, it explains the divinely ordained state of matrimony. Another excerpt:

“We think that is when the human baculum would have disappeared because the mating system changed at that point,” Opie said. “This may have been the final nail in the coffin for the already diminished baculum, which was then lost in ancestral humans.” … “With the reduced competition for mates, you are less likely to need a baculum,” he added.

Well, dear reader, as we contemplate the absence of the baculum in humans from the creationist point of view, it’s clear that we ain’t no kin to monkeys — or to any other mammals. However, one might question the wisdom of the intelligent designer — blessed be he! — in leaving that feature out of our otherwise splendid design.

Copyright © 2016. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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35 responses to “Why Humans Don’t Have a Baculum

  1. You are aware of the speculation that the story of the formation of Eve from the side of Adam was originally about formation from the baculum, and thus an explanation of the lack of the baculum in human males.

  2. Yes, TomS. That’s briefly mentioned in the Wikipedia write-up on baculum.

  3. “one might question the wisdom of the intelligent designer”
    Blasphemy! How dare you, a mere human being with limited cognitive skills, question the wisdom of the omniscient one, the perfect one! And the answer is so obvious. What do humans do that animals haven’t? They wear clothes – including underwear. And it’s very difficult to store your boner away in your underpants if it’s designed around a bone.
    IDiocy explains everything – after all those years you should know that, dear SC.

  4. What rubbish! From my house I currently see sheep being impregnated. Clearly rams have a baculum, but their copulation typically lasts for about five seconds. Usually the ewe does not even bother to stop chomping grass. I, on the other hand, lacking a baculum, often swived for well in excess of an hour (when I was younger!).

  5. Christine Janis

    “Clearly rams have a baculum—-”

    Actually no. Hoofed members (orders Artiodactyla and Perissodactyla) lack bacculae (?)
    The orders of mammal that *do* have a bacculum are Primates, Rodentia, Insectivora, Carnivora and Chiroptera. The more perspicacious readers might spot a handy mnemotic there

  6. michaelfugate

    The paper is only on primates so adding in the activities of other mammals may not apply.

  7. Megalonyx should have some insights to offer, due to his Neanderthal lineage.

  8. Christine, thanks for the correction. I was commenting on my observation that copulating rams have a feature that looks remarkably like a baculum.

    My point still holds: primates spend very little time copulating compared to my own (very personal) experience.

  9. Insectivora – isn’t that an abandonded order?

  10. Christine Janis

    Eulipotyphla doesn’t provide a good mnemonic.

  11. Christine Janis

    “My point still holds: primates spend very little time copulating compared to my own (very personal) experience.”

    That reminds me of “The Plumber” position in tantric sex. You stay in all day but nobody comes.

  12. michaelfugate

    Yes it is. Until molecular characters were employed, the phylogenetic relationships of mammal orders were quite muddled. Diet is a not a particularly useful character for determining common ancestry.

  13. Imagine the life of one to whom,
    Nature had given a baculum,
    He’d be much in demand, we assume,
    By ladies who want the maximum.

  14. Christine Janis

    Oh us ladies don’t care all that much,
    We rely much more on emotion.
    But some little things, and nonsuch:
    It’s not the bone it’s the motion.

  15. Christine Janis

    Whoops, here’s a better third line:

    “But when we do thrill to the touch”

  16. I think Christine might be on to something. The baculum may have disappeared in humans because women didn’t care about it – it was all in the motion.

    Although, at a certain age, a baculum might be good to have. Maybe “baculum transplant” surgery will be the next big thing.

  17. Ed, I recall that at one time a silicone implant that amounted to a synthetic baculum was available as a remedy for what is now called erectile disfunction. The implant was semi-rigid: limber enough to be tucked into the clothing but stiff enough for copulatory action.

  18. Seems like there was also an implant that you could “pump up” as needed 🙂

  19. I have a baculum about 22 inches long. On my desk.

    From a walrus, of course. Those were known as “usik” to the Inuit. Very sacred.

    Pretty important to the walrus also, I would imagine…

  20. Coyote says: “I have a baculum about 22 inches long. On my desk.”

    I have a 20-inch slide rule on my desk.

  21. I think Christine has pointed out what women prefer. Yes, the motion is nice, but the emotion is far more fulfilling.

  22. Hypothesis: The Grand Old Designer was in cahoots with the makers of Viagra, Cialis, and Levitra.

    Here’s proof that the G.O.D. is not a woman — if the G.O.D. were She, the bacula baculum would have been replaced by something capable of rapid vibration.

  23. Make that “baculum.” I was thinking of the actor on NCIS: New Orleans, Scott Bakula.

  24. Our Curmudgeon suggests

    Megalonyx should have some insights to offer, due to his Neanderthal lineage.

    All of us have some Neanderthal lineage. Only some of us were blessed with some Neanderthal-sized appendages.

    ‘Nuff said

  25. Our Curmudgeon boasts:

    I have a 20-inch slide rule on my desk.

    Olivia points out, “Slides don’t matter.”

  26. retiredsciguy typed “bacula” instead of “baculum.” That calls attention to the gender of what is obviously a Latin word. Why is the accepted form of the word in the neuter gender? It ought to be “baculus,” which is translated as scepter or crozier (the ceremonial staff carried by a bishop).

  27. The loss of the of baculum may also be tied to the transition from, no polite way to say this, from back door men to the missionary position, which is important for human pair bonding. At the same time human females developed larger breasts and lips to get attract the males to this sexual position and to make coitus more, how shall we say this, more personal. This pair bonding is critical for child rearing and the amount energy necessary required by the male to help raise offspring with a larger brain.

  28. Regarding the 20-inch slide rule on my desk, Megalonyx says:

    Olivia points out, “Slides don’t matter.”

    Dolt! If the slide were extended, the thing would be 40 inches long.

  29. Megalonyx:
    “All of us have some Neanderthal lineage. Only some of us were blessed with some Neanderthal-sized appendages. ‘Nuff said”

    Do we have any idea of the size of the Neanderthal appendages? For all you know, you may have been cursed, not blessed.

    (Just for the record, not all have some Neanderthal lineage. People of 100% African ancestry have no Neanderthal DNA.)

  30. The only criteria on size that matters is that it fit nicely. Reduction in baculum size in some animals could be due to changes in female anatomy, such that larger or less flexible appendages were selected against. Those changes might have been a result of the transition to upright stance and walking.

    It seems logical that the missionary position would follow the transition to an upright posture. The face-to-face orientation might have been unnatural and difficult for early hominids who still had knuckle-walking posture. Thus, it may not have been a social factor that led to a change in customary sex position, but rather physical changes. Social change may have followed physical change.

    I don’t pretend to know the female perspective on this, but it is also possible that face-to-face geometry favors a different appendage size/shape/flexibiliity than does the alternative. Just right for one could be too much or too little for the other.

  31. Doctor Stochastic

    So humans replaced the baculum with nitric oxide?

  32. Pope retiredsciguy challenges:

    For all you know, you may have been cursed, not blessed.


    Olivia’s expert testimony (not to mention her everlasting devotion) to confirm my blessed condition.

  33. And damn, if those outsized Neanderthal digits haven’t screwed up the html tags yet again… 😦

    [*Voice from above*] It’s not only your digits, but also your baculum brain.

  34. Actually, it’s not just the tag thingies. Should read “I have Olivia’s expert testimony” etc.

    She was distracting me while I was typing…

  35. bewilderbeast

    Seven seconds, eh? *worried frown*