The researchers did not set out to study penile spines. Rather, they were looking for chunks of DNA that had been lost from the human genome but not the chimp genome, so they could then try to pinpoint what those chunks did.
Sex would be a very different proposition for humans if — like some animals including chimpanzees, macaques and mice — men had penises studded with small, hard spines.
Now researchers at Stanford University in California have found a molecular mechanism for how the human penis could have evolved to be so distinctly spine-free. They have pinpointed it as the loss of a particular chunk of non-coding DNA that influences the expression of the androgen receptor gene involved in hormone signalling.