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Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Weird and Wild Ways Animals Have Sex
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David Manly
Journalism
Freelance Science Journalist
Toronto Ontario CAN

David Manly is a freelance journalist who will blog about a wide range of topics that all fall under the umbrella of zoology and ecology. While his expertise lies with reptiles and amphibians, he has a wide array of knowledge and interest in all animal species - from the sponge to the great ape. He hopes you will enjoy his blog, as he plans to make it both entertaining and enjoyable (as well as fill it with interesting facts, tidbits, photos and videos).

My posts are presented as opinion and commentary and do not represent the views of LabSpaces Productions, LLC, my employer, or my educational institution.

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Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day!

In celebration for this day where people give candy and Hallmark cards to the ones they love, I decided to share a few of the weirdest and wildest animal mating strategies I have ever come across. It almost make you feel lucky to be a Homonid!

Animals have been around much, much longer than us, and will most likely persist long after we are gone. So, animals are the true senseis of sex. They’ve been doing it longer, and are far better at it than we could ever be (yes, even better than the fabled Wilt Chamberlain).

And now, on to the main event!

I have combed through everything I have ever learnt about animals, and I have come up with a list of the five most bizarre, yet still interesting, animal mating strategies. Now, this is by no means a complete list, just the weirdest and most interesting. Believe me, there is a LOT more.  If you like it, I’m sure I could be persuaded to write more.


 

 

 

5) Well, it IS stuck

Banana slugs look exactly as their name suggests, are about eight inch slugs the colour of a banana.  The interesting thing about these animals is that since they are hermaphrodites, when mating time arises, they both possess female and male sex organs.

And for your information, the average eight inch slug will have an eight inch penis when fully engorged.

Yeah, you read that right, it’s as big as they are.

Now, why are they on the list, other than their large penises?

Well, sometimes, after mating, the penis will get stuck if the mating pair are not similar in size.  So, to resolve the conflict, they will engage in a bit of post-coital biting.  But, unlike people, the biting isn’t playful.

One slug will literally CHEW off the penis of another.  They will bite, chew and eat the opposing slug’s penis until it is gone.  Does it grow back? According to scientists who studied these slugs, after a year, the answer was still no.

For all you interested, here is a site where you can watch the process (Link).

4) Darts, anyone?

Yeah, I know. First slugs, now snails, but there is a reason they are on the list.

First, they are hermaphrodites. Second, their genitalia are on their necks behind their eyes.

But the weirdest of all is called a “love dart.”

See the red circle on the picture?  That is the aforementioned dart, piercing the other snail’s neck.  It is like being jabbed in the throat with a hypodermic needle … one that is filled with sperm.

The darts are made of calcium, and coated with mucus before fired.  Scientists used to think that it was a “copulatory gift” that was used to entice the female to mate, but now believe that the dart is the main way to reproduce. In fact, the mucus allows increased sperm survival in the acting female, thereby increasing the chance of creating offspring.

3) I can taste the bubbles

How do you entice a female covered with deadly quills to mate with you?  Isn’t it obvious?

Shower her with urine!

In order to impress a female, a male porcupine will approach and stand up to six feet away.  He will then proceed to shower her with a stream of urine and drench her.  If she is impressed, she will let him mate with her.  If not, she will shake off the urine and walk away to find another male with a better display of affection.

If accepted, the female will expose her quill-free behind, and let him mount her.  She will then force the male to mate numerous times until he is exhausted, or will seek out a more viable mate.

Talk about choosy!

2) The lost art of fencing

Once again, hermaphrodites take a spot on this list, and it is not surprising. They have evolved some of the weirdest mating rituals to date. But out of all of them, this one definitely takes the cake.

Flatworms are fairly simple creatures, but when its time to mate, individuals will fight as if their lives depended on it for the sinple right to mate. Except, they don’t use swords, they resort to “penis fencing.”

Yeah.

Like fencing, the flatworms duck and dodge their opponent’s sword while trying to perform the coup-de-gras on the opponent.  The ‘winner’ is the first one to stab the other with their penis.  In doing so, they release sperm onto the loser’s skin.

The loser then absorbs the sperm through their skin, and, for losing, is thereby relegated to bear the biological burden of motherhood. Harsh, eh?

For all you curious people out there, here’s a link to a video of penis fencing (Link).

1) I am SO into you

Let’s face facts, some guys are clingy.  Granted, there are different levels of clingy-ness.  But NONE hold a candle to the male deep-sea anglerfish.

The thing is, for the longest time, scientists never found a male anglerfish. Upon careful examination of the female anglerfish, they discovered something almost too crazy to be believed. The female was covered in tiny parasitic bumps, which when dissected, we shown to be the remains of a male.

Confused?

Basically, the male anglerfish is much, much smaller than the female, and lacks a digestive system.  Therefore, when it is born, it needs to find a female fast. It uses the only skill available to it, a highly advanced olfactory system to smell her pheramones.

If the male find a female (and there's no chance he will) he bites and does not let go. In fact, he secretes a digestive enzyme that digests his body and literally FUSES them together.

Basically, the male almost completely disappears until he is nothing more than a gonadal sac, ready and willing to be used whenever the female anglerfish decides to spawn.

Next time you call your significant other a parasite, remember the deep-sea anglerfish, and choose your words more carefully.

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Blog Comments

Suzy
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Great article David. Very funny and interesting!


becca
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I am delighted and disturbed. I think that's a mission acomplished for this story. Well played, sir.

skullstuffing

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Where does the banana slug keep its penis when not he's not using it, given that it's the same size he is?!


Suzy
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good question!


Alchemystress
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Penis fencing, that made my day.


Lab Mom
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Great post! I can only imagine the stuff you didn't intend to run across when you were reasearching it!


David Manly
Freelance Science Journalist
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There are TONS and TONS of stuff that I know/have discovered from researching this. Keep an eye out for FUTURE animal mating weirdness!

Note: Please do not type in "penis fencing" into Google. Just ... trust me :P


Alchemystress
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curiousity got the best of me... I did it, very interesting set of results. haha

Sex Chat

Guest Comment

The retractor penis muscle is relatively underdeveloped. Erection and protrusion take place gradually, by the increasing tumescence of the erectile vascular tissue in the corpus cavernosum penis.

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