Thursday, March 28, 2013

Feds Dole Out $876,752 To Research Snail Sex

The U.S. government's 'National Science Foundation' (NSF) has taken it upon itself to fund a study about sex and snails. That's right.
The National Science Foundation awarded a grant for $876,752 to the University of Iowa to study whether there is any benefit to sex among New Zealand mud snails and whether that explains why any organism has sex.

The study, first funded in 2011 and continuing until 2015, will study the New Zealand snails to see if it is better that they reproduce sexually or asexually – the snail can do both – hoping to gain insight on why so many organisms practice sexual reproduction.

“Sexual reproduction is more costly than asexual reproduction, yet nearly all organisms reproduce sexually at least some of the time. Why is sexual reproduction so common despite its costs,” the study’s abstract asks. 
So far, the grant has paid out $502,357, according to NSF, and could pay out the full $880,000 between now and 2015. The study is funded through what NSF calls a continuing grant meaning that it agrees with the researcher to fund a certain amount, but can end up spending more on the grant if NSF agrees that more money is warranted.

The broader aim of the study is to find out why sexual reproduction and males exist, arguing that sex is biologically inefficient for females. Because an asexual organism can simply clone itself faster than it can reproduce if it finds a mate, the study seeks to see if there are other benefits to sexual reproduction that outweigh this ‘cost’ of finding a mate.

Uh, why do we need to know this, and why on earth should we care about the sexual proclivity of New Zealand mud snails?

While $870,000 plus change is a relatively paltry sum in the grand scheme of things, it's a heck of a lot of money to be spending on research that does nothing to aid humanity, and simply adds to our trillion dollar deficit.

The rest here.

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