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Ten Unusual Experiments in the Name of Science – The Gay Necrophilian Duck

Ten Unusual Experiments in the Name of Science – The Gay Necrophilian Duck

This one is a case study rather than an experiment, but is nevertheless too good to not include in this list celebrating the awkwardness of science. The article starts with what is probably the best abstract ever written:

“On 5 June 1995 an adult male mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) collided with the glass façade of the Natuurmuseum Rotterdam and died. An other drake mallard raped the corpse almost continuously for 75 minutes. Then the author disturbed the scene and secured the dead duck. Dissection showed that the rape-victim indeed was of the male sex. It is concluded that the mallards were engaged in an ‘Attempted Rape Flight’ that resulted in the first described case of homosexual necrophilia in the mallard.”

After this, you know you want to read the rest. And fortunately author Kees Moeliker, also known as ‘The Duck Guy’ in the Netherlands, isn’t afraid to spice up the story. Further in the article, he vividly describes how  “He [the rapist] forcibly picked into the back, the base of the bill and mostly into the back of the head of the dead mallard for about two minutes, then mounted the corpse and started to copulate, with great force, almost continuously picking the side of the head.”

How to explain this peculiar incident? Obviously the author can only speculate: quantitative research in the matter has not been (and will probably never be) conducted. But, Moeliker argues, it could be related to the phenomenon known as ‘Attempted Rape Flight’ (ATR);  the situation in which a male duck chases a female and rapes her in the air.  This would explain why the unfortunate mallard flew into the window. ATR, however, had so far only been observed in heterosexual couples. As was the case for necrophilia among mallards. And thus, the author concludes, to his knowledge “this case is the first described case of homosexual necrophilia in the mallard.” 

Read (open access) study

C.W. Moeliker (2001). The first case of homosexual necrophilia in the mallard Anas platyrhynchos DEINSEA

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