The mating behaviour of animals is wonderfully diverse, intelligent and downright bizarre. Well human sexual behaviour is pretty strange too, if we look at it from the point of view of other animals. Humans are one of the few social mammals who have sex in private, do not display ovulation (our fertile time), have sex during pregnancy and undergo female menopause.
Below you will find quotes from two fantastic books. 'Why is Sex Fun?' by Jared Diamond and 'Dr Tatiana's Sex Advice To All Creation: The Definitive Guide to the Evolutionary Biology of Sex' by Olivia Judson.
Welcome to the wonderfully weird world of animal copulation!
In the 1980s, the development of more sophisticated genetic techniques meant that biologists could find out who was really having whose children. And they discovered something astonishing, something that no one had predicted. Namely that, from stick insects to chimpanzees, females are hardly ever faithful.
This discovery was swiftly followed by another that was even more surprising: in species after species, rampant promiscuity is no malfunction. Rather, females benefit from it. My files bulge with examples. To pick a few at random, female rabbits and Gunnison's prairie dogs both show higher rates of conception if they mate with several partners while they are in heat. The female sand lizard hatches out more eggs the more lovers she's had. The female slippery dick - a pale fish that lives on coral reefs - will have more of her eggs fertilised if she spawns with a gang than if she spawns with just one fellow. These discoveries have forced a reevaluation of male and female behaviour which is still under way. (Judson, p. 13)
A typical damselfly penis has a balloon - an inflatable bulb - with two horns at the tip and long bristles down the sides. In the black-winged damselfly, Calopteryx maculata, the male uses this device to scour the sperm from inside a female before depositing his own. But in the related Calopteryx haemorrhoidalis asturica, he uses his penis as an instrument of persuasion: by stimulating her in the proper manner, he can induce her to eject sperm from previous lovers. (Judson, p. 15)
The ghost spider crab Inachus phalangium, is a creature that lives under the protective tentacles of sea anemones. The males makes a special jelly to seal the sperm of previous males into a corner of the female's reproductive tract so it won't be able to mingle with his own. (Judson, p. 15)
Among primates as among insects, it is a rule of thumb that in species where females consort with one male at a time, penises are small and uninteresting. Take the gorilla - a huge guy with a teeny weenie. A male gorilla can weigh 210 kilos, but his penis is a measly 5 cm and totally devoid of knobs and spikes. The Argentine lake duck puts him to shame. The duck is small, but his penis, which rivals that of the ostrich, is 20 cm long - and it has spines. But then, a male gorilla generally presides over a small group and does not often have to worry about other fellows' sperm. (Judson, p. 15)
When a male honeybee reaches his climax, he explodes, his genitals ripped from his body with a loud snap. ... The competition among male honeybees is fierce: as many as 25,000 males may assemble to contend for a single queen (who doesn't mate more than 20 times, so most male honeybees die virgins). Any male who catches the female has nothing to lose by exploding: he'd be unlikely to mate again. If by blocking the female up, he can prevent other males from copulating with her, he will fertilise a larger proportion of her eggs and more of his genes will be passed to the next generation. ... If you look closely, you'll see that each male honeybee sports, on the tip of his phallus, a hairy structure that can dislodge the severed genitalia of his predecessor. (Judson, p. 17)
Chastity belts are a popular evolutionary invention, in vogue among bats, rats, worms, snakes, spiders, butterflies, fruit flies, guinea pigs, squirrels. chimpanzees - I could go on. I must admit, however, that most of these fellows opt for the more traditional plugs, cements and glues rather than for amputating genitalia. In many species of rodent, males have enormous glands to secrete tough, rubbery corks that they place deep in their partners' reproductive tracts as they finish copulating. The house mouse makes a plug so tough that a scalpel virtually bounces off it; once the plug has formed inside a female, attempts to remove it can tear the ligaments of her womb. ... In the rat, the male's penis is almost prehensile: it can do some glorious gymnastic flips to dislodge plugs left by previous lovers, making like a toilet plunger and pulling them out with suction. (Judson, p. 19)
Sex mania comes in two types. In type I, the female needs lots of stimulation to get pregnant. In type II, a male copulates like mad not to stimulate the female but to ensure all the offspring are his own. Type I affliction includes female lions, rats, golden hamsters and cactus mice - all require vigorous stimulation before they can conceive. Some species - such as rabbits, ferrets and domestic cats do not release eggs without proper stimulation. Others - rats for example - release eggs spontaneously, but a female that hasn't been stimulated enough won't stay pregnant even if her eggs have been fertilised. (Judson, p. 34)
In many species, females will only mate with males bearing gifts. Males who can't produce the goods are rejected. Males bearing small gifts are often punished for not being allowed to copulate for long. Presents take many forms, depending upon the species of the giver. Often, presents are edible secretions that include proteins and other nutrients. Look at the tropical cockroach Xestoblatta hamata. After sex, females feast on anal secretions produced by their mates, eating right off the plate, so the speak. In many species, the secretions are not taken orally but are delivered in the same package as the sperm. During copulation in the moth Uththeisa ornatrix, the male passes the female a chemical that protects her from spiders. The spiders find her so disgusting that they actually free her from their webs as soon as she gets stuck. (Judson, p. 38)
A young male marine iguana will ready to go, desperate to use one or the other of his penises (yes, like most reptiles he has two, a left and right penis). But being young and therefore small, he doesn't have much of a chance. It isn't just that ladies prefer to mate with older, bigger males. It's that even if he manages to mount a female, the odds are he'll be shoved aside by a bigger fellow before he climaxes. That's why young males masturbate when they see a girl go by. Wanking reduces the time they need to ejaculate during sex - and thus reduces the risk of being interrupted before their climax. So the behaviour is probably here to stay. Young wankers probably sire more children than those who abstain. (Judson, p. 88)
Females in more than 80 species have been caught eating their lovers before, during and after sex. Spiders are the most common culprits, although several other praying mantises, some scorpions and certain midges also number among the guilty. ... For many of these creatures, a male represents a significant meal. (Judson, p. 96)
Features of human sexuality - long term sexual partnerships, coparenting, proximity to the sexual partnerships of others, private sex, concealed ovulation, extended female receptivity, sex for fun and female menopause - constitute what we humans assume is normal sexuality. It titillates, amuses or disgusts us to read of the sexual habits of elephant seals, marsupial mice or orangutans, whose lives are so different from our own. There lives seem to us bizarre. But that proves to be a species-ist interpretation. By the standards of the world's 4,3000 other species of mammals, and even the standards of our closest relatives, the great apes, we are the ones who are bizarre. (Diamond, p.7)
Along with posture and brain size, sexuality completes the trinity of the decisive respects in which the ancestors of humans and great apes diverged. Orangutans are often solitary, males and females associate just to copulate and males provide no paternal care; a gorilla male gathers a harem of a few females, with each of which he has sex at intervals of several years (after the females weans her most recent offspring and resumes menstrual cycling and before she becomes pregnant again); and chimpanzees and bonobos live in troops with no lasting male-female pair bonds or specific father-offspring bonds. (Diamond, p. 9)
Page Title: 'Biology: Mating / Copulation of the Human Animal.
Sexual Reproduction, Fertilization, Male & Female Genitals'.
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Analyse any human emotion, no matter how far it may be removed from the sphere of sex, and you are sure to discover somewhere the primal impulse, to which life owes its perpetuation. ... The primitive stages can always be re-established; the primitive mind is, in the fullest meaning of the word, imperishable. ... Mans most disagreeable habits and idiosyncrasies, his deceit, his cowardice, his lack of reverence, are engendered by his incomplete adjustment to a complicated civilisation. It is the result of the conflict between our instincts and our culture. (Sigmund Freud)
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