7
$\begingroup$

Early life, and many modern organisms have what we call 'blind guts'. Food enters and exits via the same opening.

However, that is inefficient and has been widely replaced with 'through guts'. Food goes in one opening and out another.

Could an organism do something like this but with the reproductive system instead?

Would there be any good reason for a species to evolve this kind of set up?

For an explanation, gametes, sperm or otherwise, enter one hole, fertilize an egg or perform some other reproductive process, form an egg or a baby, which wil then come out the other.

$\endgroup$
6
$\begingroup$

While the analogy between reproduction and eating seems like a valid one on the surface, especially since some of the openings you describe are shared between these functions, there are some good reasons for leaving reproduction just the way it is. While there are some potential benefits, the cost would be significantly higher in terms of health of the organism which is probably why it has never occurred in nature (at least within the sphere of research I've read).

The potential benefits seem obvious; for one thing, you can birth an egg or child from a much larger opening than the one in which the gametes or sperm enter, meaning that you lose a lot of the complications in modern mammalian birthing, particularly in humans where increased brain size is causing complications that evolution is trying to solve through bringing babies to term at a much lower level of development compared to other species, and neural 'specialisations' in the form of Neurodiversity, or the Autism Spectrum. Certainly birthing would be much less painful for most species designed this way, and you could keep babies in utero for longer, right?

The trouble is, for all but a very specific set of organisms, the problem that you have with this is frequency of use. You've just added significant complication to the design of your organism for something that doesn't get used all the time. Having a mouth and an anus makes sense because food is common requirement for us. Most organisms, especially the complex ones, feel most comfortable if they eat daily or more often. So, both openings are going to be under constant use. The hygiene factor alone makes two openings and a through system sensible under that kind of workload. Reproduction on the other hand doesn't happen nearly so often and as such can cope with the simpler system as the single opening is used so much more rarely. The IO (if you will) just doesn't justify the increase in complexity.

It's been my experience that evolution favours simplicity wherever possible; specialisations do occur but they also die out quickly when the conditions change that led to them in the first place. In this instance, there would be some benefits to this change to be sure, but the existing system works well enough that it is less of a concern than the eating example you gave in the OP.

Humans are the embodiment of that principle. We are generalists in almost every sense of the term. We are not the fastest animal but we can run. We're not the best climbers or swimmers or trekkers, but we can do all those things. We can eat nearly anything compared to most other mammals, and the few specialisations we seem to have are being able to throw things and work tools, which when combined with minds capable of rapidly adapting our behaviour through better knowledge of our environment, has seen spectacular results. And we've done it with the simpler reproductive plumbing you describe.

In short, the added cost in maintenance and hygiene isn't worth it for a system that works well enough as it is. While it is possible that we would get reproductive benefits, the added maintenance would more than offset the those benefits which is why (I suspect) it will never happen.

| improve this answer | |
$\endgroup$
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ As a species, we're also incredibly good cross-country. Persistence hunting ftw! $\endgroup$ – Salda007 Mar 16 at 4:25
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Ok so if one could create an evolutionary environment where daily birthing is required, it would become feasible? $\endgroup$ – RancidCrab Mar 16 at 13:35
1
$\begingroup$

Would there be any good reason for a species to evolve this kind of set up?

There is no good reason for having a "batch processing" reproductive system, as the current method is more than enough.

Why? Eating is a daily necessity for all animal, reproducing, though one of the life priority, is way less frequent. No animal, as far as I know, reproduces as frequently as it eats.

This for the obvious reason that sexual reproduction is energy intensive, so any organism has to first build up the necessary energy reserve and then engage in reproduction.

| improve this answer | |
$\endgroup$
1
$\begingroup$

To be honest, maybe, but not likely. The reason why the "complete" digestive system has two holes is because that way one can eat more food without first letting out what it's already eaten, meaning it has a more efficient and faster way to gain energy through eating. For your creature to have a similar route with its reproductive system, reproduction would too have to be something happening constantly and at a fast pace (aka your species would be basically composed of nymphomaniacs that would put rabbit reproduction to shame).

As a counter measure, what about an uterus divided in chambers that close up once there's an embryo inside? That way, the mother could be fertilized many times, even while still pregnant, and deliver a baby even while the others aren't ready yet. The main issues with this idea are: 1-more energy and space must be reserved in the body for the reproductive system and 2-the more babies the mother is incubating the less agile/mobile she might be (look at how kangaroos throw their pouched babies at predators if she can't hop away fast enough, your creature might even abort the most developed and heaviest one as a defense mechanism if it can't escape a predator). So yeah, the only way I see for your creature to have any of these adaptations would be for reproduction to be (and I can't stress it enough) EXTREMELY important for the species to survive.

| improve this answer | |
$\endgroup$
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Interestingly, there are already animals with "two" uterus's (e.g. marsupials, sand tiger sharks) $\endgroup$ – B.Kenobi Apr 27 at 16:53
1
$\begingroup$

This reproductive setup is quite plausible, as it has occured, in some form, in marsupials, lepidopterans, and spiders. An advantage would be that the birthing orifice does not need to be involved in mating, and so is less limited in what forms it can adapt to.

| improve this answer | |
$\endgroup$

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.