Reproduction is everything in biology. If you reproduce, you win (evolutionarily speaking). However, it isn’t always nice and straightforward. Some animals have really unconventional ways of getting down.
Bonobos are the only primates except humans that have sex for fun, and boy do they have fun with it.
Bonobos will have sex with anyone available, regardless of gender or age (with the exception of mother/child interactions). Females frequently rub their clitorises together, (known as genital-genital rubbing) and even males stand face to face and sway their hips from side to side, in a process called penis fencing. Oral sex and mutual masturbation are also quite common.
Bonobos will also use sex to move up in social status. When a new bonobo joins a group, he or she immediately tries to climb the social ladder. Researchers have found that when having sex with an alpha male, a lower status female will call out differently during sex, essentially bragging about it. This is particularly true if higher-ranking females are around to see and hear the exchange.
Sex is serious business for honey bees.
From the moment virgin queens emerge from their queen cell (a specialized compartment in which the egg was laid), they get to work trying to kill the other virgin queens. Worker bees can step in and stop them from fighting, but only for a time. On the day they finally copulate, up to 20 virgin queens and swarms of drones leave the hive to have sex in the open air. Each queen will mate with around fifteen drones and store all of the sperm for later use. When the queens go back to the hive, there is another fight to the death among the newly mated queens, until only one will remain. The victor will eventually take over leadership of the colony and will use the sperm collected on her mating day to fertilize eggs for the rest of her life.
Male honey bees give a new meaning to the phrase “bust a nut.” During the mating swarm, drones insert themselves into the queens, deposit their sperm, and then their testicles explode upon completion. Seriously. Most will drop to the ground and die soon after, but even if the fact that their testicles exploded doesn’t kill them, they are not allowed back into the hive, as they have nothing more to offer to the colony.
Garter snakes are mildly venomous and pose no threat to humans, so they are often regarded as fairly mild creatures. However, things get a little wild after hibernation.
Immediately after emerging from their den, a female will release a pheromone that causes dozens of males to flock to her in a crazy orgy known as a mating ball. Male snakes have a bifurcated penis known as “hemipenes.” Due to the chaos of the mating ball, the male will use whichever penis is more convenient to inseminate the female.
Some males try to steal thunder from the female by inducing their own mating ball, though it isn’t clear how or why they do this. By pretending to be female, the snake is covered by other male snakes which can give heat and protection. This does not seem to be a sexual advantage, but might increase the male’s odds of survival.
Ever feel like you need to have sex or you’ll die? For a female ferret in heat, this is a real danger.
Ferrets are induced ovulators, meaning once they go into heat, only copulation will allow them to release an egg and end estrus. As estrus continues, the constant production of estrogen builds up inside the body. Eventually, the extreme hormone levels can become toxic, and the bone marrow will be depleted. Aplastic anemia sets in, as the ferret can no longer produce her own blood cells. Energy levels drop and infections take over before the ferret finally dies.
Female hyenas are definitely dominant to their male counterparts. They are larger, more aggressive, and have even have a larger penis. Well, pseudopenis. The pseudopenis is an enlarged clitoris that can become erect. The erect pseudopenis is used for greeting purposes.
For mating, the male inserts his penis into the pseudopenis. This is often difficult to maneuver for the male, and requires lots of practice. The pseudopenis also challenges the female, as she will give birth through it a few months later.
Alpha females have the ability to give her cubs a boost of hormones during pregnancy, ensuring that they will be as aggressive as possible after birth. Aggression is a positive attribute, because it gives the young hyenas an advantage when fighting for food and causes the males to practice mating early, giving an advantage for future reproductive success. This advantage for the cubs comes at a cost to the mother, as the surge in hormones damages her reproductive organs, making future conceptions difficult.
Good night, sleep tight, don’t let the bedbugs impale you with their penises!
Female bedbugs have sex organs, but males can’t be bothered to use them. Instead, they impale the female’s abdominal wall with their knife-like penis and deposit sperm.
This actually isn’t a very efficient method of insemination and the gaping wound threatens the female’s life and reproductive success. It is likely that the females evolved a spermalege to target the male’s penis and counteract some of the trauma.
Sometimes, though, males will get confused and try to inseminate another male. As the males do not have the spermalege, this case of mistaken identity can be lethal.
Certain sea slugs, like bed bugs, also participate in traumatic insemination, but it turns out that they have a very precise target: the partner’s head. The slugs are hermaphroditic with branched penises, and the copulation itself is reciprocal and somewhat acrobatic.
Each slug will insert one end of the penis into the partner’s female genitalia while inserting the other end directly into the forehead. It is thought that this could boost conception rates by having an alternative entry point for the seminal fluid as well as stimulating the central nervous system.