Feel free to go about your normal lives again, everybody. Toxic chemicals are no longer causing female sea snails to grow penises, so you can rest easy tonight. If your reaction to that is, “Wait, at some point female sea snails were growing penises? What?” Congratulations, the Internet has not dulled your ability to find things surprising.
It turns out that back in the ’60s, ships were coated with a chemical called TBT to keep sea life from sticking to their hulls. The sea life would create drag on the ships and damage the hulls, so ships needed a way to get rid of it. In a not entirely surprising development, it was later found that the same chemical that repelled the sea creatures in small amounts was harmful to them as it built up in large amounts in the waters around seaports.
How harmful? Oh, it just caused entire populations of sea snails to die out, because not only did TBT cause the lady-sea snails to grow penises, but those penises prevented them from shedding their eggs, and that, in turn, caused them to swell up and explode.
Because death by penis-related explosion sounds like a really horrible way to go, the use of TBT was finally banned back in 2001, and since the ban went into effect in 2008, sea snail populations have managed to bounce back and, you know, not grow any more unwanted penises.
Sorry, about that, sea snails. In the future, we’ll try to stick to just accidentally poisoning ourselves.
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