To many of us, our first exposure to sex came at the paws of an animal, tugging on our parents’ coat sleeves, whilst exclaiming “Mommy, Mommy those two monkeys are killing each other.” For those of us lucky enough to have sexually enlightened parents who grew up in the ‘60s and ‘70s, this may have prompted “the talk” while more reserved care-givers probably just responded with an “oh, oh my . . . yes, indeed, killing each other” while dragging you toward the more sexually conservative bat enclosure.
As humans, it’s easy to get all big-headed about our large brains and creative sexual imaginations, assuming that our position at the top of the food chain also assures us a seat at the head of the kinky-sex table. However as with most things, if you can think of it, someone — or in this case something — has done it first. And as we learn more and more about animal behaviour, we also learn more and more about animal sex. As it turns out, animals are dirty — especially bats.
Those kinky bats
According to a paper, published in October by the public library of science, until very recently not much was known about bat sex. In fact, out of the 1,100 described species of bats, the number of animals for which the mating rituals had been observed and documented could be counted on one hand.
The reason for the mystery? These nocturnal creatures often enjoy roosting in hard-to-reach places in order to avoid predators. Unfortunately, this also means that the bats effectively avoided the prying eyes of peeping-tom scientists. But thanks to recent camera advances in the areas of miniaturization and night-vision capabilities, scientists are getting the chance to document more and more of the mating rituals of these shy creatures.
In the paper, “Fellatio by fruit bats prolongs copulation,” biologists observed the mating between two short-nosed fruit bats, also known as Chiroptera sphinx.
The paper outlines how, following the building of a leafy-tent by the male, females start to drop by to observe his handy work. When one is sufficiently impressed with the male’s architectural prowess, she flies down and engages in what could be described as “sloppy kissing,” where the two animals start to lick each other’s faces.
Following the face-sucking, the male moves behind the female and “assumes the position.” Sometimes the female flies away, encouraging the male to chase her, however most often she sticks around and copulation begins.
During mating, the male normally bites the females neck, and holds her with his wings. However, observers also noticed that in almost 2/3 of the mating rituals they watched, the female — in a feat of aero-bat-ic wonder — doubled over and started to lick the shaft of the male’s penis while it was inside her.
Analysis of the data showed that the couplings that included fellatio lasted longer, and were less likely to end prematurely, when compared to those that did not. The paper’s authors found that each second of licking extended the overall mating ritual by six seconds; again, when compared to sex that was fellatio-free.
The researchers were not sure why short-nosed fruit bats engage in oral sex, but suggested several explanations. One of the most interesting was that it was used by the female as a way of preventing sexually transmitted infections, since bat saliva is bactericidal. But the authors do note that they might just do it because it feels good.
Those kinky dolphins
The word “dolphin” should elicit images of aerial flips, jumping through hoops, and wetsuit clad people being pulled around a tiny pool while holding onto a porpoise’s dorsal fin. But that’s just what happens above the water. Below the surface of the sea, it’s a completely different matter.
According to Dolphins.org, dolphins are “indiscriminately amourous,” willing to have sex with anything, anytime, literally. The dolphin mating season, like that of us humans is “whenever the mood takes them,” which is apparently all the time. Foreplay occupies 90 per cent of the coupling, with actual intercourse lasting only a matter of seconds.
When the mood strikes a dolphin, you would be wise to leave the water, as fast as you possibly can. When aroused, they lose most of their regard for the selection and willingness of partners, engaging in sex with members of the opposite sex, the same sex, inanimate objects and even creatures like sea turtles who just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Adding to the strangeness of dolphin sex, the male’s penis is fully retractable, like a switchblade, and ejaculation is voluntarily controlled by the male. In fact, some dolphins have been trained to ejaculate on command!
Females are just as well “endowed” as the males, using their genitalia to pick up objects. There have even been reports of groups of female dolphins using the sound waves normally used for echolocation to stimulate each other.
So there, you probably thought us humans were pretty kinky creatures, but the harsh reality is that most of us are prudes compared to our wild cousins, and we haven’t even talked about bonobos yet!