Humans can be odd creatures, especially when it comes to our sexual desires. However, we might not be alone in the animal kingdom with the weird, repressed and downright creepy urges that some psychologists believe we all possess. A study showed that seals can also exhibit signs of having an Oedipus complex – that’s psychoanalytical slang for wanting to have sex with your own mother.
Scientists observed the behavior among Antarctic fur seals on Trypot Beach on Marion Island, off the coast of South Africa in the Indian Ocean. These seals tend to reach sexual maturity around three to four years of age, however the scientists witnessed a 90-day-old seal humping his poor mother.
Published in the Journal of Ethology, the authors wrote, the “pup was first seen suckling from its mother. The female rolled onto her back at which point the pup climbed onto her. The female then rolled onto her stomach, and the pup then performed clear hip thrusts… Pelvic movements became more vigorous and, after three minutes, the female rolled over.” They couldn't see whether the pup extended his penis, though...
After being thrown off, the pup returned for a suckle, but 30 seconds later it went for round two, thrusting for about a minute before suckling again. Clearly all that humping was thirsty work... The pair then fell asleep, bless.
A few days later, the same seal was caught going for it again, but this time he was chased off by an adult male, suggesting this was indeed a form of copulatory behavior. Apparently undeterred, like clockwork the following day, the seal was at it once more.
The male Antarctic fur seal pup attempting to mate its own mother. Image credit: Mammal Research Institute, University of Pretoria.
The scientists believe this is a type of sexual play behavior with “elements of the Oedipus complex,” as the mother seemed fairly unaffected and there was nothing to suggest it was a form of aggressive sexual coercion. They also said there was no penetration.
The term Oedipus complex was coined by Sigmund Freud, the king of all things sexually suspect. It’s a term in psychoanalytic theory that refers to the human desire to reject your father and sexually possess your mother, in homage to the Greek mythological character of Oedipus, who (albeit unknowingly) killed his father and married his mother.
Previous studies in the 1990s suggested this characteristic might be present in other primates, such as cotton-top tamarins (whose scientific name is actually Saguinus oedipus). However, this work from the Mammal Research Institute, University of Pretoria is the first study to show that non-primates may also exhibit this sexual hiccup.
Then again, if you think this behavior is strange, you should hear what Adélie Penguins get up to.
Main image credit: Liam Quinn/Flickr. (CC BY-SA 2.0)