Male snakes have got one thing on their mind. That is, of course, sex. A new study published in the journal Royal Society journal Proceedings B reports that they enjoy their frenzied collective mating seasons so much they will almost kill themselves doing it, damaging their health so greatly that the males age faster and die early. That’s some dedication.
Zoologists from the University of Sydney, Australia, looked at the sex lives of red-sided garter snakes in Canada. Scientists have documented before that the females of this species live dramatically longer lives than the males, but now it’s clear that this is most likely down to the male’s libido.
These snakes hibernate underground for eight months in communal dens. Around springtime each year, they emerge en masse and engage in sex orgies. They found that males indulge in mating sessions around 2 to 4 weeks each year. During these sessions, which resemble one of Indiana Jones’ nightmares, the males compete against thousands of other males for the prized few females. The females have a comparatively chilled session, usually lasting no more than a day or two.
Researchers studied populations of red-sided garter snakes in Manitoba, Canada over the breeding season. Christopher R Friesen
This comes at a cost for the males, however, as they prioritize sex over self-preservation. The researchers measured telomere length, a region at each end of a chromosome, which is a biomarker of aging in male and female snakes. After these sexy times, the males were shown to be physically exhausted and aging considerably faster than their female counterparts.
"Although we believe that all females mate every year, they only stay at the den sites (where mating takes place) for a short period of one- to three days; much less than males, who remain for at least a week and up to 21 days, which seems to result in males ageing faster and dying earlier than females," lead author Dr Christopher R Friesen said in a statement.
The reason behind the females taking this approach is pretty straight forward. They want to maintain their fat and energy reserves so they can successfully produce their eggs and make it to future breeding opportunities, which to be honest, is fair enough.