6 strange animal mating rituals that’ll make you glad to be human

Posted on 11 February 2014

Despite their best efforts to find true romance, there are certain animals that will always have an awkward time on the eve of love. Here are six strange animal mating rituals that’ll make even your most clumsiest night between the sheets seem delightful (hopefully).

1. The honey bee

honey bee, saw palmetto fruit

The honey bee – doomed

This poor guy doesn’t stand a chance. Even if he manages to outfox (outbuzz?) thousands of eligible bachelors in the colony and woo the queen, his night of passion still ends in despair. Why? During mating, the male’s genitals explode and then snap off inside the queen bee … bummer. As ridiculous as it sounds, it actually makes evolutionary sense: the snapped-off penis (just typing that makes me cringe) acts as a plug to prevent other drones from fertilizing the queen, but try telling that to the dead drone whose willy just blew up.

2. The giant panda

giant panda,

Giant panda – cinephile

Giant pandas are famously difficult to get to mate in captivity. They prefer to chill … and eat. This was, of course, until someone discovered that showing them videos of other pandas mating significantly increased their libido. In 1998 the result of showing ‘panda porn’ to these latent lovers led to the population of pandas in the Wolong Nature Reserve, in Sichuan, growing to more than double. While that’s great for the species, trying to convince the other bears that, ‘We’re just going to stay in and watch some movies’ is bound to evoke a few knowing laughs.

3. The angler fish

angler fish

The female angler fish – kinda mean

This is a strange one, and emasculating to say the least. A male angler fish is born without a digestive system. This means that once he has hatched he has to find a female quickly (like, quicker than it takes a zitty teenager to develop a great personality). Once he’s found a female, he latches on by biting on to the side of her body. Despite the fact that he’s already coming off as a little clingy, it’s not the end of the embarrassment for him. The male angler fish then releases an enzyme that fuses his skin with the outside of the females body, basically welding them together. The male then wastes away, becoming nothing but a lump on her side, ahem. The only thing that remains is a pair of balls dangling off her body, which she later uses to impregnate herself.

Chicks 1: Dudes 0

Check out The Oatmeal for a more detailed (and hilarious) explanation of this phenomenon.

4. The garter snake

garter snakes

Garter snakes – up for anything

When the weirdest thing about these reptiles’ mating ritual isn’t the fact that the male has two penises, then you know you’re in for a special night. In fact, the mating ritual of the garter snakes is so strange it’s become an annual tourist attraction in Canada. When the female emerges from hibernation, she releases a pheromone that attracts hundreds of male snakes. They slither on towards her and create a large squirming, snaking mass known as a ‘mating ball’, or in human terms, ‘an orgy’. Over and above this, sometimes one of the male snake will emit a pheromone simliar to the female’s, duping other males into piling up on top of him. With such a keys-in-the-jar approach to courtship, the only obvious question left is, ‘Who’s got the Volvo?’

5. The clownfish

Image by Leszek Leszczynski's on Flickr

The clownfish – confused

In the Disney animated film Finding Nemo, they left out one important fact about the clownfish: they can change gender. Clownfish live in a group that consists of a breeding pair (a male and a female), as well as a couple of non-breeding males. There is strict hierarchy based on size: the largest is the female, next is the male, and then there are the non-breeding males. If, for some reason (eg. night fishing) the female dies, the breeding male will change sex and become the female. Then the largest of the non-breeding males gets a promotion and become the breeding male. So, a crazy night of passion might go something like this:

‘Howzit boet.’

‘Howzit boet … wait, what?’

‘Well, this is gonna be weird.’

6. The bonobo

Image by Graphic Reality on Flickr

The bonobo – promiscuous

With their tendency to take love-making to the extreme, the bonobo is probably the most liberal of primates. The bonobo (pygmy chimpanzee) uses sex as a greeting, a means of solving disputes, a way to make up for a fight and even as a favour in exchange for food. As a result, they have exceptionally lower levels of stress compared to other chimpanzees and apes. Females tend to collectively dominate males by forming alliances and using sexuality to control males (wait, this sounds familiar?). Of course, this leads a bit of confusion as to who’s dating who, turning a candlelit dinner with that special someone into a bit of a ‘What’s your name again?’

7. You

Naughty …


There are many more weird mating rituals in the Animal Kingdom. If you know of any add it to the comment box.


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