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The fascination with “the birds and the bees” has been recently seen and overdone with the exhaustive coverage of the Tiger Woods scandal and apology. Well, move over Tiger because the animals are taking back some of the spotlight. From fruit flies and fruit bats to cane toads and beetles to a group of birds called great tits, researchers have recently made some intriguing and strange discoveries in the world of animal mating and breeding.
Fruit Flies: When Bigger Isn’t Necessarily Better
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In the world of fruit fly mating, larger females attract many male suitors, which may seem like a good thing on the surface but is actually detrimental to their reproduction. According to a recent study in the journal PLoS Biology, attractive (i.e. larger) female fruit flies were overwhelmed with so many inquiring males that they had lower fertility rates over their lifetime than less attractive (i.e. smaller) female fruit flies. Because they can store more fruit fly eggs, larger female fruit flies are often inundated by a plethora of male sexual advances, often leaving them overfilled with toxic male fruit fly semen and inhibiting their abilities to find food. According to a National Geographic story, such overabundant male aggressiveness is not just limited to mating fruit flies but also seen in other insects, lizards and guppies, resulting in irritated female counterparts that consequently do not reproduce as much as possible.
Female Cane Toads: An “Inflated” Sense of Control
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Showing more resistance to aggressive male suitors than the female fruit fly, female cane toads inflate their bodies to bigger sizes to exert control over pesky males looking to mate, according to a recent study in the British journal Biology Letters. While male cane toads are willing to mate with nearly any female that shows interest or is simply in their vicinity, female cane toads are much pickier, preferring males with better calls and similar body sizes. When presented with many male suitors, including some frisky, smaller males who will cling on their backs with hopes of mating, the female cane toads inflate sacs in their body. This tactic causes the males to lose their grip and fall off the female toads. In the study, researchers injected male cane toads with hormones that boosted their sex drive while performing a tracheal surgery on nine female toads, thus preventing them from inflating their bodies. The researchers then noted how the female toads were unable to resist the male toads, thus providing more credence to why females are often seen inflating their bodies in the wild during the mating season.
Beetle Mania: A Reason to the Madness
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In the past researchers have been puzzled by beetle mating habits, which often involve male beetles inflicting damage on female beetles that still return for more love despite the potential of such harms. According to a recent study, female beetles may yearn for more sex in spite of the aggressiveness of male beetles due to the mating process providing them with necessary hydration, specifically from male ejaculate fluid. In the study, 79 enclosed beetles were split into three groups: some received water and food, others were given just water, and another group was provided with just food. Based on the study’s findings, the female beetles that received just food were inclined to have more beetle sex, possibly suggesting that beetle mating provides the females with necessary hydration. The researchers also noted this possibility after observing how the female beetles that received water were less inclined to mate.
Stimulating Fruit Bat Love
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Researchers recently discovered that fruit bats engage in oral sex while mating, with this behavior possibly sustaining reproduction efforts. In a study of 20 mating pairs of bats, researchers noted how more than 70% of the female bats performed oral sex on their male sex partners, leading to prolonged periods of intercourse. In addition to promoting longer copulation, female bat oral sex may provide other benefits, including keep male bats from fleeing to new partners and possibly even protecting the animals from sexually-transmitted diseases due to the exchange of saliva that contains antimicrobes.
Male Great Tits: A Flashy Group of Birds
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For a specific type of bird called the great tit, it certainly pays to be flashy. According to recent research, female great tits are attracted to male great tits that have brighter yellow breasts, which apparently symbolize stronger sperm and increase the chance of reproduction. Swedish researchers have detailed how male great tits contain an antioxidant called carotenoid that gives their breasts a yellower hue and protect the birds from free radicals, or atoms that can weaken sperm and cause infertility. Somehow, female great tits know that males with yellow breasts have better sperm and are more inclined to mate with these birds. However, the female great tit can not always control whom they get to mate with, and have been shown to cheat on less attractive males with those male great tits that have brighter breasts and better quality sperm.