The sex life of animals is bubble gum ice cream topped with chocolate topped with mango-cactus with sprinkles of viagra on top
Want to spice up your sex life? Forget lame roses and do it hardcore like the argonaut octopus: true romance is to fill up your arm with sperm, break it off and offer it to your date. I must confess, though, that I would be a bit weirded out by this, but it would sure be a novel take on the dating game.
If you are fed up with boring Tinder threesomes, do it like the red-sided garter snake. The female releases a pheromone and attracts every male red-sided garter snake in the neighborhood. The female ends up in the middle of an enormous pile of male snakes; each attributed with two penises. The male snakes apparently go so nuts that they will enter any building located on top a mating pit. There have been a few incidences where families have come downstairs only to discover 500 snakes having an orgy in their kitchen.
Well, it could be even worse I suppose. Many invertebrates practice so-called traumatic insemination. Yeah, I’m not sure what to add to that, but since I am a biologist and can blame all my weird fascinations on my job, I will explain it further: traumatic insemination is also called hypodermic insemination. Are you slowly starting to understand what is going on here? Hypo- (under) and dermic– (skin)… you know of *hypo*dermic needles I suppose… Yes, exactly: the female gets stabbed in the gut by the male and then he injects his sperm. Homosexual, as well as interspecific (other species) traumatic inseminations, have been observed.
Who said that romance was dead?
Nature also has its own natural butt-plug. Some garter snake females are forced to defecate (poo) quickly before the male inserts the sperm since after he is done, he will insert a mating plug into the female to hinder any other males from fertilizing the eggs. Sometimes this does not work out as he had planned and mixed paternities do occur. Regarding the butt-plug: snakes are a bit peculiar since they do not have a butthole that is separated from the vagina, as is the case for humans (!), but they have a cloaca that like an “all-in-one” structure. Some reptiles even breath out of their “butthole”, but that is a different story. Birds also have cloacas, showing the close relationship between reptiles and birds. If you are interested in the relationship between the common chicken and a T-rex, read Thomas’ article about dinosaurs. I bet you will never look at your morning eggs the same way again.
Interestingly, mating plugs occur quite widely ranging from spiders to kangaroos and mice, but for those animal groups, they cannot truly be referred to as “butt-plugs”.
Sexual selection and ridiculous plumes
Many sexual (secondary) characteristics in the animal kingdom are just plainly ridiculous, like the feathers of the male peacock. For many years, debates were raging on how to explain these utterly pointless feathers that would reduce the fitness of the bird so immensely. If you don’t know what I mean, try to run a 100m dash dressed in a full Victorian women’s outfit, and I think that you might get my point.
Ronald Fisher, an English evolutionary biologist, wrote a book in the 1930ies that revolutionized the way we think about the peacock’s plume. The book was called The Genetical Theory of Natural Selection in which he presented several theories; of which one was the Fisherian runaway hypothesis. This hypothesis describes how traits and preferences can be genetically linked. If the peacock female prefers a male with a full plumage, only those with a large plumage will reproduce, eventually, the traits will be linked and the plumage will become larger and more spectacular with every generation. There is, however, a price to pay, and that is the reduced fitness of the male; his ridiculous feathers will make him slow and more prone to become dinner. Therefore, there will be an upper limit to how long the feathers will become. Thus, there are two forces at play here: Natural Selection and Sexual Selection.
The end result of these forces acting on biological beings clearly highlights the erroneous belief that:
“survival of the fittest”
“survival of the biggest and the strongest.”
That is not how it works. For the peacock, it is rather:
“survival of the second campest”.
I would like to end with a lovely story about the Bonobo chimpanzees, our close relatives who deal with rare events of aggression by a great variety of sexual behaviors of which penis-fencing is one of the more exotic ones (could you refer to this as cock-fighting?).
If anyone tells me one more time “that is not natural” with regard to homosexuality, I will suggest that they stick a butt-plug up their arse and jump into a pit of a few hundred crazy snakes with two penises each to have a close look at what natural sexual behaviors can be for other animals, then have an even closer look at our close relatives: the frivolous Bonobos…
The research for this article included Google searches such as: “How do snakes poo?”, “Natural butt plugs” and “snake sex” and I have only skimmed the surface on the weirdness of sex in the animal kingdom.
More crazy science stuff from Doctor Anna:
Science jokes for intellectual badasses and Bullshit or truth: does vitamin C help against a cold?
– Doctor Anna