If the purpose of life on earth is to procreate and pass on your genetic material, then you would think that evolution would have made mating easy. In reality, many species have bizarre mating rituals, and some of those rituals even involve the death of one of the partners, with the male usually breathing his last breath after a sexual encounter.
While many humans find the dating game perplexing – chatting up strangers in bars or meeting strangers online – in reality, these games are nothing compared to the way that some members of the animal kingdom attract a mate. While men might wear cologne to appear more attractive to the opposite sex, some animal species use other fluids to attract a mate – and not always pleasant ones at that.
The majority of the animals have a near-normal mating ritual, but as wildlife biologists have found out, some of the natural world’s mating rituals are more like a slasher movie, with one or both of the participants ending up horrifically injured – all so that their genetic material successfully makes it to the next generation. Ranging from piercing penises, to rough sex and killing each other for a shot, males will do anything to make sure they get one up on the competition.
So if you think human dating is weird and bewildering, wait until you read the following list of the most horrifying and violent animal mating rituals, which you might be lucky to see when you take your next safari in the wild.
15. Flatworm Fencing
Flatworms have an unusual mating ritual – and one that is very peculiar to their biology. These weird creatures are hermaphrodites, and either one can end up taking on the role of the male parent depending on which one gets their penis in first! This results in a strange game of penis swordplay, as both flatworms try to fight off the other, all while trying to inseminate their opponent with their own genetic material. These contests can last for over an hour, and each flatworm can sustain penis injuries before the “winner” deposits its sperm in the other and the circle of life continues.
14. Spiky Seed Beetles
The female seed beetle probably dreads dating more than most women on the planet. The male of her species has a penis that resembles a spiked medieval war hammer, which causes the female immense pain during mating. It is thought that the seed beetle evolved in this way so that the spikes pierce the female’s reproductive tract during mating, either to ensure that the maximum number of eggs are fertilized or to prevent her from mating with any other seed beetles. The male seed beetle doesn’t have it all his own way, however, as the females kick their partners repeatedly and quite firmly during the mating process.
13. Honey Bees
Male honey bees have a tough time when it comes to their mating ritual. Not only do they have to mate with their queen bee literally on the fly, but after ejaculation his endophallus remains attached to his mate, ripping open his abdomen in the process and leading to almost certain death. Worse still, the queen bee will mate with up to ten different male bees during her mating flight, with each one removing the endophallus of the previous victim before they begin, so there isn’t a guarantee that your genetic material will make it. Gladly, some male bees somehow survive the horrific mating ritual, but before you start to feel too happy for these plucky guys, any males that do make it are immediately expelled from the hive, as they have served their purpose in life.
12. Honking Hippos
Female hippos employ some pretty foul methods to attract the attention of a potential mate –the natural world really needs to learn a thing a two about personal hygiene and the power of a good perfume! During the mating season, female hippopotami signal to the males that they are interested by defecating – and then by spreading the resulting mess around, as large a distance as possible, using their tails. This is a process called “submissive defecation” and while hippos are far from the only animals to employ it, they are one of the biggest – which also means they make the biggest mess. Of course, the poor male has to get on with the job while his mate is still covered in her own poop.
11. Mind The Bedbugs
The children’s rhyme might warn us to “mind the bedbugs don’t bite” but if you’re a female bedbug, you should really be on the lookout for randy males – given that these tiny creatures mate by a process called “traumatic insemination”. Despite female bedbugs having a perfectly adequate reproductive tract, the male of the species prefers instead to stab them in the stomach with his penis, allowing the sperm instead to make its own way to the reproductive system and the female’s eggs. Luckily, the females have evolved over millions of years to cope with this rather invasive mating ritual, and the process doesn’t cause them any lasting damage.
10. Giant Squid, A Stab In The Dark
The Giant Squid lives its life in the deepest parts of our oceans, and for a long time we knew very little about their mating rituals or even how they reproduced. However, it has now emerged that one of the male squid’s many flailing arms is a little shorter than the others – and that this shorter arm is his penis. As the male and female giant squid swim around each other, the male uses his penis like a needle, to repeatedly stab the skin of his partner and inject her with his sperm. It might seem a little hit or miss, but when you live in some of the murkiest places on earth, everything becomes a bit of a stab in the dark.
9. Elephant Seals
Male elephant seals are among the most violent animals in the world when it comes to mating, and the poor females, and sometimes the seal cubs, are the ones who pay the price. In addition to male elephant seals fighting with each other during the mating season, the excess aggression is often taken out on the females. Sometimes the male can end up crushing the skull of his mate in his jaws as he makes sure she can’t get away from him and, of course, his delivery of genetic material. These frantic battles can be dangerous for anyone in the surrounding area, including seal cubs, who are sometimes crushed by the weight of copulating seals or left essentially orphaned if their mother is killed during the mating season.
8. Peeing Porcupines
For porcupines, mating must be a prickly problem at the best of times. How do they go about procreating with all those sharp quills in the way? The whole process is a lot more complicated than just avoiding injury – and a lot smellier. In order to impress his potential mate, the male will drench her in a high-powered jet of urine. If she likes the smell, she will lie on her back and allow him to mate with her. If she doesn’t she simply shakes it off and goes looking for another mate. After all, the female porcupine doesn’t have any time to waste – she is only fertile for around 12 hours every year.
7. Wasp Spiderman
The male wasp spider makes the ultimate sacrifice to ensure that his genetic material makes it to the next generation, since when mating, he is cocooned and then eaten by his female mate. Female wasp spiders are much bigger than their male counterparts, and have to rise up on their legs to give him “access”. While he is still in the process of mating, she begins to cocoon him in her silk, and just before he dies, the male allows his sex organ to break off inside the female – thus ensuring that no other males get to mate with her after he has kicked the bucket. So, not only does he provide the female wasp spider with his sperm, but also with a nice healthy and nutritious meal to get her through her pregnancy.
6. Argonaut Octopus Antics
The male Argonaut Octopus also dies just after mating – but in this case, he doesn’t even die safe in the knowledge that his genetic material will make it to the next generation! This species of octopus, like other octopi, uses one of their tentacles to deliver the sperm inside the female – a much more intimate process than many other invertebrates. Once it has served its purpose, the tentacle breaks off inside the female, causing the male to die. However, the female can then go on to mate with several other males, storing their sperm inside her for use in the future.
5. Shootin’ Snails
Most species of snails are hermaphrodites, with both male and female organs located, confusingly, in their heads. The snail mating ritual is quite a long process, and involves a lot of touch – mainly because snails have such poor eyesight! Once contact has been established, the snails then shoot darts at each other, in a bid to cement their connection further. These darts are made of calcium coated in hormones which are designed to increase the chances of mating and then of reproduction. The snails then begin the actual mating process, with one or even both of the creatures inserting their sperm into the other.
4. The Quoll – Nature’s Nymphos
Not many people have heard of the quoll, a cute little marsupial which lives in Australia and has one of the deadliest and most frantic mating rituals in nature. All the females go into heat at the same time, which makes the little male quolls go a little bit sex mad. They make a beeline for the nearest female and mate for hours and hours on end, at which point they simply wander off exhausted and die. The females don’t always get an easier ride, as many will die themselves during the violent sex sessions or be left so seriously injured that they are unable to fight off any of the quoll’s many predators.
3. Parrots, Off-Colour Courtship
Urine and faeces play a role in far too many mating rituals, but there are fewer creatures that vomit on their partners as part of their courtship display. As part of their mating, the white fronted parrots actually start kissing each other with their beaks. Cute, right? That is, until the male parrot vomits into his female partner’s mouth. And the strange thing is that while the use of urine and faeces in mating rituals has a role in the reproductive process, this vomit doesn’t make it any more likely that the female will choose the male or that she will successfully reproduce. The best guess is that this vomit is simply a lovely present from the male to his partner; offering her a regurgitated meal to enjoy.
2. Anglerfish, Together Forever
The anglerfish is an unusual looking creature at the best of times, and their disturbing mating ritual just makes them seem even weirder. The typical anglerfish that we all know, with the spiky teeth and luminescent lure, is the female. For years, no-one knew where the male anglerfish were. Eventually, it was discovered that the males were physically attached to the body of the females, nothing more than parasites. During mating, they burrow into the skin of the female to deposit their sperm and they simply stay there for the rest of their “lives” feeding off the female and unable, of course, to mate with any other fish.
1. Praying Mantis, Til Death Do Us Part
The Praying Mantis is infamous for its murderous mating ritual. The females bite off the head of their partner and cannibalize him – ostensibly to make sure they have a bit more nutrition and energy to get them through the reproductive process! Of course, the females will only kill their mate once they are sure the mating process has been successfully started – but they often don’t need to wait for him to finish before they can start their post-coital snack. The mating ritual of the Praying Mantis may be well known, but it still is one of the most violent courtships in nature.
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