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In Brief

Duck Genitalia Researcher Defends Her Work

weird animal penises, animal facts
(Image credit: K. McCracken/Nature)

A scientist who studies duck penises and vaginas wants the world to know she's no quack after her work has come under fire for receiving federal funding.

Terrible puns aside, this controversy started after conservative website CNSNews.com called out a multi-year $384,949 National Science Foundation (NSF) grant for Yale University evolutionary biologist Patricia Brennan to study duck genitalia as wasteful government spending. At Slate, Brennan argues that this basic science is exactly what the NSF is supposed to fund. Strange-seeming basic research often evolves into new innovations and realizations, after all. And if any government agency uses its cash carefully, it's NSF, which funds less than 10 percent of the animal behavior grant proposals it receives. None of this stops politicians from periodically reading some out-of-context research report and making wide-eyed accusations that the government is spending millions on shrimp treadmills, however.

Oh yeah — and duck sex is just really weird, as this Q&A with the discoverer of gay waterfowl necrophilia illustrates.  

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Stephanie Pappas

Stephanie Pappas is a contributing writer for Live Science, covering topics ranging from geoscience to archaeology to the human brain and behavior. She was previously a senior writer for Live Science but is now a freelancer based in Denver, Colorado, and regularly contributes to Scientific American and The Monitor, the monthly magazine of the American Psychological Association. Stephanie received a bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of South Carolina and a graduate certificate in science communication from the University of California, Santa Cruz.