10 Bizarre Animal Mating Habits

Ah, sex! We do it; animals do it; birds do it. It’s nothing to be intrigued about. But wait! Did you know that in case of some animals, their genitalia explodes after they have coitus? Or did you know that some fish disguise themselves as a female to protect themselves against rival males and sneak out the females right under their noses? Curious? Then read on to find more such intriguing animal mating habits.

1. Female ducks are known to have complex vaginas that are lined with several dead-end pockets and tunnels in order to confuse unwanted male ducks and prevent forceful fertilization.

Duck Genitalia, Duck
Image source: phenomena.nationalgeographic.com, Image credit: Pixabay

Mating in the animal world is driven by competition. The same happens when it comes to ducks. Male ducks are always challenged by rival males who try to force themselves upon the female. To have a competitive edge over rivals, males have large corkscrew-shaped penises that are lined with ridges and spines which enable them to deposit their sperm further into a female compared to their rivals.

But it’s the female ducks that offer the most interesting scenario. With the mating war going on for some time, females have developed an evolved and complex vagina. Their vaginas are long and twisted, complementing the male penises, but are lined with dead-end tunnels, pockets, and spirals that curve in the opposite direction.

The complex detailing of their vagina ensures that if a male duck forces himself upon a female, the chances of him fertilizing her are quite slim. Even if the male duck does ejaculate, there’s no surety that the semen has been deposited anywhere near the egg.(source)

2. Male giraffes take a mouthful of the female’s urine to find out if she is a good mate. The male first approaches the female and rubs her back to instigate urination. He then tastes the urine to determine if she is willing to mate.

Giraffe Mating
Image credits: Brocken Inaglory/Wikimedia, © Hans Hillewaert / CC BY-SA 4.0/Wikimedia

Male giraffes use a strange way to determine whether the female is ready to mate or not. When a male giraffe approaches a female, he will first rub her backside until she urinates. When she urinates, the male giraffe tastes the urine to find out if the female is ready to mate. This is known as the “Flehmen sequence.”

If the male giraffe feels that she is willing to mate, then he starts stalking her. It has been observed in many cases that the female simply runs away from the male and keeps a lookout for better males. The male that tasted her urine keeps pursuing her until she agrees to the mating.

On the other hand, if a female develops an interest in a male giraffe, it is she who would pursue the male giraffe and get him to taste the urine. If the urine is to the male giraffe’s liking, then they end up having coitus very soon.

Another interesting case among giraffes is when two males fight over a female. It’s less fighting and more “necking” in which the males press their necks against each other until one of them gives up. They sometimes also swing their necks and try to hurt each other but that is very rare. Under such circumstances, it is the male with the long neck that wins a majority of the times. Once the fight is over, the males caress one another with their necks and end up having sex with each other! In fact, 75% to 94% of the time that male giraffes have coitus, it is with another male giraffe! The animal kingdom is strange!(1,2)

3. The testicles and penis of male bees “explode” and are ripped off right after sex with the queen bee. The queen bee goes on to mate with multiple partners leaving a trail of dead, penisless bees behind.

Bee Penis, Bees
Image credits: Michael L. Smith/Wikimedia, Michael L. Smith/Wikimedia, Pixabay

The male honeybee exists for one and only one reason – to mate with the queen bee. Known as “drones,” this is the only service that the male bees contribute to their society. The queen soars into mid-air in the search for mates. The drones compete to mate with the queen and swarm around her as she flies.

Eventually, when a drone gets hold of the queen bee, he inserts his penis tightly into the queen bee’s reproductive tract with the help of pressure of his abdominal muscles. Without losing any time, the drone immediately ejaculates. The ejaculation requires such explosive force that the tip of his penis ruptures. The broken penis remains inside the queen. The drone collapses to the ground where he dies soon after mating with the queen bee.

Moreover, it’s not just one drone bee that gives his life to fertilize the queen. The queen mates with dozens of bees and during this, she leaves behind a series of dead bees who sacrificed their lives.(source)

4. Quolls are very violent and ruthless while mating and often get their females killed during the act. As if that’s not bad enough, the males put out so much energy during the mating season that they lose weight, get bald, and die within only a few weeks of their sexual rampage.

Quoll
Image credit: Ways/Wikimedia

When you are a quoll, life is tough. You end up spending your life fighting for female attention and fighting with rival males, only to end up dead just after you have got it all. That too, before you even get to your first birthday!

Quolls have a lifespan of only 12 months. In that time, they travel long distances to find female mates. In the meantime, they are also required to fight off rival males who are in the same pursuit. They travel as far as 10 square kilometers, which is a long range away from home.

All the pursuit for mates wears out the male quolls. They begin losing weight and hair, and just within a few weeks of their reproductive cycle, they lose their life. According to Jaime Heiniger, a University of Queensland Ph.D. student who has been studying the behavior of quolls, this unusual reproductive behavior is known as “semelparity,” and even though it’s common in the animal kingdom, it occurs rarely in mammals.(source)

5. Gray whales mate in threes. One of the males involved is non-dominant and acts as a support to hold the female in place so that she doesn’t float away.

Gray Whale
Image credit: Charles Melville Scammon/Wikimedia

Gray whales are one of the most majestic marine creatures. But their mating process can raise a few eyebrows! During the mating season, that is in the months of November and December, gray whales begin to be spotted in groups of three or more.

The reason being this is the time when they are on the lookout for eligible females to mate. The whales perform a behavior known as “Spy Hopping,” where they put their heads out of the water and scan the surrounding area for females, at the same performing some circular motions to attract them. After few hours, they split into groups of three comprised of one female and two males.

Both the males have a part to play in the mating process, but there is a dominant male who can be identified as the one extending a single flipper. He lies motionless on the surface of the water, waiting for the female. The female approaches him, grazing him with her flippers, and lies belly-to-belly with him. The mating then begins which can last up to an hour during which they mate several times.

Where is the second male in all of this? Well, he lies on the far side of the female, holding her tight to the dominant male so that she doesn’t float away in the middle of the ritual. That’s a strange kind of partnership that you wouldn’t see anywhere.(source)

6. When anglerfish mate, their bodies melt into each other. They then share their bodies forever. The male latches and fuses onto the female, losing his internal organs in the process, until they share a bloodstream.

Anglerfish
Image source: Wikimedia

Anglerfish might just be the most angry-looking deep sea creature. Their females have a distinctive piece of the spine that protrudes above their mouths. It looks like a fishing pole and acts as a bait for prey.

But that’s not what we are interested in. Anglerfish literally become one when they mate. When a free-swimming young, male anglerfish encounters a female anglerfish, he latches onto her with the help of his sharp teeth. After some time passes by, the male fusses with the body of the female physically. He loses his eyes and internal organs in the process, and at the end of the fusion, they end up sharing the same bloodstream. The only organ that remains of the male is his testes. Since not just one male has sexual encounters with a female, the female carries around five to six males on her body! Crazy right?(source)

7. Male dolphins sometimes separate the females from their families and deny them food until they agree to mate.

Dolphins
Image credit: Pixabay

Dolphins are universally loved creatures. They are always happy and contribute their share of spreading happiness around. Also, their behavior and the large size of their brains indicate a high level of intelligence.

But the story is quite different when it comes to mating. A group of male dolphins would form an alliance with another group of male dolphins to seek help while luring fertile females from the hands of rival males. And after they have succeeded in stealing the female away, the alliance remains intact to ensure that the female behaves and complies with requests of courtship.

Two or three males surround the female like guards. If she tries to escape, then the males chase after her, bite her, slap her with their fins or slam into her with their heavy bodies. They even deny them food until they agree to mate with one of the males.

But once a dolphin gives birth, the alliance loses interest in her and goes off on their next adventure. The females raise their kids as single mothers for four to five years.(source)

8. The adult luna moths develop without a mouth as their only purpose is to mate during their 7-day lifespan. After this, they die of starvation.

Luna Moth, Luna Moth Mating
Image source: creationwiki.org, Wikimedia

Ever heard of anyone brought into this world for just seven days with the only purpose of mating? Sounds crazy, but that is the life of the luna moths. The luna moths stay inside their cocoons even after they have turned into adults via metamorphosis. It’s only when all the biological factors are suitable that they come out of their cocoon. Just after they emerge from the cocoon, their abdomens are swollen and their wings are yet to be fully developed. This takes around two to three hours.

The things that stand out is that they do not have mouths. Luna moths come to the world without any mouths and they just have a lifespan of one week during which they do not consume any food. Their sole purpose is to look for mates.

The females, on the other hand, give off pheromones to attract males. Normally, a female mates with the first male that approaches her. Once a male moth approaches a female, they mate and remain in the same position until the next evening if left undisturbed. After their separation, the female looks around for hosts on which to lay her eggs. Once a week passes by, the male moths starve to death.(1,2)

9. Mating for pandas is difficult because the sexual interest of the female lasts just 24-72 hours per year.

Panda, Panda mating
Image credit: Tim Evanson/flickr, screengrab via ibtimes.co.uk

Mating among pandas is a tricky business. This is because the female pandas are not always in the mood for breeding. They are just in the mood for one to three days in a year! That’s a very short time for the male pandas to woo the female as well as convince her to have coitus.

A few researchers have discovered that several months prior to the females entering their phase of ovulation, the males start getting ready. It’s also a possibility that the sperm production increases among males during the few months leading up to the time when the females are in the ovulation phase. This is in order to accommodate the brief window when the females express interest in breeding.

In China, a breeding and research center for pandas resorted to “panda porn” to get two grown-up pandas to mate.(1,2)

10. Weak, male cuttlefish pretend to be female by changing their skin color so that they can sneak past the bigger males and mate with the real females right under their noses.

CuttleFish, CuttleFish Mating
Image credits: Nhobgood Nick Hobgood/Wikimedia, Joi Ito/flickr

Cuttlefish have taken sexual trickery to new depths. Cuttlefish have heightened the ability to change their color for communication purposes. Male cuttlefish are normally adorned with pulsating stripes, whereas females have dots on their body.

Scientists have observed an unbelievable phenomenon while observing cuttlefish mate. They noticed that weak, male cuttlefish tag along, disguised as females, with breeding male-female pairs. They wait for their chance to woo the female when the strong male is not around.  The strong male never doubts the cuttlefish in disguise and goes off to tackle other rivals. As soon as he is gone, the weak cuttlefish reveals its true colors to the female, woos her, and mates with her. In case the strong male returns back unexpectedly, the weak male cuttlefish quickly changes its color again to look like a female! This is some high-level social intelligence going on here!(source)

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