The Most Extreme Romances In The Animal Kingdom
The average couple has sex
for anywhere from 30
seconds to about 45 minutes.
Now, 45 minutes sounds long until
you consider the brown antechinus.
For two weeks every mating season,
a male will mate as much
as physically possible.
Sometimes having sex for
up to 14 hours at a time,
flitting from one female to the next.
And all that testosterone revs up
his stress hormone
production into overdrive.
That, in turn, crashes his immune system,
making him extremely vulnerable
to disease and infection.
Oftentimes, he dies before
his young are even born.
Scientists call this kamikaze mating
technique “suicidal reproduction.”
It turns out that for
many species, sex kills.
Take the male honeybee. His primary job?
Mate with the queen. But sadly for him,
he only gets to mate once
because during the act,
his reproductive organs
are ripped off and his testicles explode.
In the process, his semen shoots
through her oviduct where
she stores it for later use.
Hey, at least it’s a quick death,
especially compared to
some deep sea anglerfish.
Like the triplewart seadevil.
This one’s a female, and you see
that tiny parasite on her side?
That’s the male. It would be like
if a human male only came
up to a woman’s ankle.
Instead of hunting for his own food,
the male bites into the female,
fusing his body with hers and living
off the nutrients in her blood.
In return, he provides the one
thing he has to offer: sperm.
But, there’s a catch. In the process,
his body shrivels up.
He loses his eyes, fins,
and most internal organs until ultimately
he becomes just a portable
sperm bank for the female.
Fortunately, not all
males have it that rough.
The short-beaked echidna survives mating,
but his sex life is anything but ordinary.
He’ll line up with around nine other males
and follow a single female for up
to a month during mating season.
But here’s the interesting part.
Females have a forked reproductive tract,
but that doesn’t deter the males
because they have a four-headed penis.
So during sex, the male alternates,
swapping out spent pairs
as each fires its semen.
And that semen is supercharged.
Hundreds of sperm glom
together into bundles
which can swim faster
than individual sperm,
increasing their chance of fertilization.
If that’s not impressive enough,
his penis reaches nearly a quarter
of his body length when erect.
But that’s nothing
compared to a barnacle’s.
That little crustacean has proportionally
the longest penis of any animal on Earth,
spanning up to 10 times his body size.
That’s like humans reaching
the length of a bowling lane.
And the barnacle needs it
because he can’t move around very easily.
So he casts out his giant penis
like a fishing line to find a mate.
It waves about in the current,
reaching to touch and fertilize
the female organs of its neighbor.
Bee or barnacle, reproduction finds
creative ways to continue on.