Dear scandalized lawmakers: Japanese quail high on blow like to have sex, but that's not the only reason scientists want to study them.
There is a spate of Republican lawmakers who are absolutely shocked that the National Institutes of Health would ask for about $400,000 to fund a two-year study at the University of Kentucky to research how cocaine affects the sexual habits of the Japanese quail.
In fact, the proposed federal grant even made No. 23 on Sen. Tom Coburn's (R-Okla.) 2011 annual "Wastebook."
This week, New York GOP Rep. Tom Reed had still not gotten over this indignity.
"This is a question of priorities,” Reed said in a statement. “Our national debt stands at more than $15,600,000,000,000 and rising. $356,933 may be a relatively small number to people in Washington, but that is a lot of money in Western New York.
"Will taxpayers get $356,000 of return from this investment?” Reed asked. “If someone wants to find out how cocaine impacts sexual behavior in quails and it is worthwhile, they should find a private source to fund it."
HOH is on the case.
Sadly, even though there's nothing HOH loves more than learning that the federal government is taking money out of the checking accounts of babes to fund carefully monitored, drug-fueled avian orgies, this coked-out quail study is not that. The study actually seems to have practical applications and the potential to inform.
First, according to Scientific American, the Japanese quail might sound hilarious, but it has its scientific benefits. This oft-used lab animal is apparently an efficient beast.
More than rodents, the quail's behavior closely parallels humans. For example, quails, like humans, sleep through the night and are visually oriented. Rodents, on the other hand, are nocturnal and rely on their sense of smell to situate themselves in the world.
In addition, quails lay an egg every, day and they take just six-weeks after they are born to reach sexual maturity. When studying the biology and science of sex, this level of practical efficiency is rather helpful.
Also, even though Coburn's Wastebook claims that all one needs is "common sense" to understand that cocaine is linked to risky sexual behavior, that has not led to any curbs on cocaine abuse or risky sexual behavior.
One reason scientists suggest studying such things, for instance, is that risky sexual behavior leads to more sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies. Such behavior, in turn, can lead to a greater number of birth defects. These things end up costing taxpayers a lot of money.
So what are some of the things being learned from the whole cocaine/quail/copulation thing?
Scientists are learning the drug affects both the brain and reproductive systems of some animals — not just whether quails high on blow have lots of sex, but whether and how they reproduce afterward.
Knowing more about whether such ideas apply to humans, and how that could translate into public policy practices, might stem in part from the two-year, $400,000 study.