Take the 40 Million-Years-Without-Sex Challenge


Scientists have determined that a tiny freshwater organism known as the “bdelloid rotifer” gave up sex 40 million years ago. 


And you thought the spark had gone out of your marriage.


While various weird organisms such as nuns and Andy Warhol have claimed to be asexual, the bdelloid rotifers have actually pulled it off. 


I know I’m only 54 words into this article, but did I mention that all bdelloid rotifers are female?


That’s right.  The bdelloid rotifers have created an all-female, sex-free society—and they consider that evolution. 


You can imagine the pillow talk between the last male bdelloid rotifer and his significant other:


MALE BDR:  (nuzzling nose into female bdelloid rotifer’s hair) Ummm . . .


FEMALE BDR:  What are you doing?


MALE BDR:  I just want to snuggle . . .


FEMALE BDR:  Yeah right.  Go to sleep.


MALE BDR:  We never have sex anymore!


FEMALE BDR:  You say that like it’s a bad thing.


According to two Harvard University scientists, bdelloid rotifers can withstand dessication at any life stage and “spring back into action after being dried out.” 


My question is–how do Harvard scientists know these things?  Have they been watching in secret for forty million years?  Don’t they have classes to teach, papers to grade, and coeds to ply with Mateus rosé wine and Andrew Marvell’s To His Coy Mistress?


Once you’ve done away with the last male bdelloid rotifer, where does a dried-up female bdelloid rotifer go for action?  A singles bar where everybody else in the place is the same sex as you and just as desperate?  I’m sorry, by then it’s too late.


The truly amazing aspect of this story is that the Harvard scientists who were looking at these strange creatures didn’t think it was a big deal that they hadn’t had sex in forty million years.  The bdelloid rotifers, that is, not the scientists.


No, what got the scientists all excited was how the bdelloid rotifers had developed a substitute for a byproduct of sexual procreation, namely, the beneficial incorporation of new genetic material into the offspring of a species that enables them to adapt to changing circumstances. 


That technique?  Female bdelloid rotifers steal DNA from other organisms!


That innovation might put a chill on the festivities at the last ladies’ night in Bdelloid Rotiferville:


MALE BDR:  Hi there—can I buy you a drink?


FEMALE BDR:  Thanks, I wasgetting kind of dessicated.


MALE BDR:  You know, I’ve been looking for a bdelloid rotifer like you all my life . . .


FEMALE BDR:  What a coincidence--I’m a hopeless romantic myself!


MALE BDR:  What’s your idea of a dream date?


FEMALE BDR:  A quiet walk on the beach, a candlelight dinner, then I steal my beau’s deoxyribonucleic acid.


MALE BDR:  (to bartender) Check please!


So next time your wife comes home from book group reeking of chardonnay and says she’s too tired for sex, ask her this question:


“Sweetie--have you ‘gals’ been stealing men’s DNA again?”