The word baculum meant "stick" or "staff" in Latin and originated from Greek: βάκλον, baklon "stick".
The baculum is used for copulation and varies in size and shape by species. Its characteristics are sometimes used to differentiate between similar species. A bone in the penis allows a male to mate for a long time with a female, which can be a distinct advantage in some mating strategies. The length of the baculum may be related to the duration of copulation in some species. The baculum can also protect the urethra from compression.
Evidence suggests that the baculum was independently evolved 9 times and lost in 10 separate lineages. The baculum is an exclusive characteristic of placentals and closely related eutherians, being absent in other mammal clades, and it has been speculated to be derived from the epipubic bones more widely spread across mammals, but notoriously absent in placentals.
Among the primates, the marmoset, weighing around 500 g, has a baculum measuring around 2 mm, while the tiny 63-g galago has one around 13 mm long. The great apes, despite their size, tend to have very small penis bones, and humans are the only ones to have lost them altogether.
In some mammalian species, such as the raccoon (Procyon lotor), the baculum can be used to determine relative age. If the baculum tip is made up of uncalcified cartilage, has a porous base, is less than 1.2 g in mass, and measures less than 90 mm long, then the baculum belongs to a juvenile.
Absence in humans
Unlike other primates, humans lack an os penis or os clitoris; however, this bone is present but much reduced among the great apes. In many ape species, it is a relatively insignificant 10–20 mm structure. Cases of human penis ossification following trauma have been reported, and one case was reported of a congenital os penis surgically removed from a 5-year-old boy, who also had other developmental abnormalities, including a cleft scrotum.Clellan S. Ford and Frank A. Beach in Patterns of Sexual Behavior (1953), p. 30 say, "Both gorillas and chimpanzees possess a penile bone. In the latter species, the os penis is located in the lower part of the organ and measures approximately three-quarters of an inch in length." In humans, the rigidity of the erection is provided entirely through blood pressure in the corpora cavernosa. An "artificial baculum" or penile prosthesis is sometimes used to treat erectile dysfunction in humans.
The loss of the bone in humans, when it is present in our nearest related species the chimpanzee, is thought to be because humans "evolved a mating system in which the male tended to accompany a particular female all the time to try to ensure paternity of her children" which allows for frequent matings of short duration. Observation suggests that primates with a baculum only infrequently encounter females, but engage in longer periods of copulation that the baculum makes possible, thereby maximizing their chances of fathering the female's offspring. Human females exhibit concealed ovulation also known as hidden estrus, meaning it is almost impossible to tell when the female is fertile, so frequent matings would be necessary to ensure paternity.
In hoodoo, the folk magic of the American South, the raccoon baculum is sometimes worn as an amulet for love or luck.
Oosik is a term used in Native Alaska cultures to describe the bacula of walruses, seals, sea lions, and polar bears. Sometimes as long as 60 cm (2 ft), fossilized bacula are often polished and used as a handle for knives and other tools. The oosik is a polished and sometimes carved baculum of these large northern carnivores.
Oosiks are also sold as tourist souvenirs. In 2007, a 4.5-ft-long fossilized penis bone from an extinct species of walrus, believed by the seller to be the largest in existence, was sold for $8,000.
^ abcd"Godinotia". Walking With Beasts. ABC — BBC. 2002. pp. Question: How do we know how Godinotia (the primate in program 1) mated?. Archived from the original on 29 April 2014. Retrieved 7 July 2015.
^Dawkins, Richard (2006) . The Selfish Gene (30th anniversary ed.). Endnote to 30th anniversary edition: Oxford University Press. p. 158 endnote. ISBN 0-19-929114-4. It is not implausible that, with natural selection refining their diagnostic skills, females could glean all sorts of clues about a male's health, and robustness of his ability to cope with stress, from the tone and bearing of his penis.
^Bednarik, R. G. (2011). "The Human Condition". ISBN 978-1-4419-9352-6. doi:10.1007/978-1-4419-9353-3. (page 134), cited by:
Achrati, Ahmed (November 2014). "Neoteny, female hominin and cognitive evolution". Rock Art Research. 31 (1): 232–238.
"In humans, neoteny is manifested in the resemblance of many physiological features of a human to a late-stage foetal chimpanzee. These foetal characteristics include hair on the head, a globular skull, ear shape, vertical plane face, absence of penal bone (baculum) in foetal male chimpanzees, the vagina pointing forward in foetal ape, the presence of hymen in neonate ape, and the structure of the foot. 'These and many other features', Bednarik says, 'define the anatomical relationship between ape and man as the latter's neoteny'"
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