Environment

10 Bizarre Mating Behaviors Of Animals

Here are some animals that go to amazing and interesting lengths to attract a mate.  

Humans go on dates. We send Valentine’s Day cards and alluring text messages, we buy each other flowers, spray on perfume and cologne, freshen up our breath and wear lipstick to attract romantic attention. Hardly any of us do the strange things the creatures on this list have been known to do. 

Here are some animals that go to amazing and interesting lengths to attract a mate.  

Honey Bees

Does the news these days seem a bit violent and unusual? Many of the events reported could pale in comparison with the honey bee’s mating ritual. 

For starters, the male and female honey bee complete their mating mid flight, which must require a bit of gymnastics, even for a bee. Somewhere between five and nineteen drones, (male honey bees), mate with the queen of the hive in one mating session. This process happens because not every male that mounts the female successfully transfers its semen to her. Sometimes the queen does not have what is called her “sting chamber” open, and so the semen cannot enter. 

Unfortunately for the drones however, even if they do try to mate, they will die. This wild mating reality has been called “sexual suicide.” Once the drone successfully mounts the queen, his penis, or endophallus, inflates so suddenly that he is paralyzed. He flips backwards as his semens explodes into the queen bee. Following this, his penis is cut off! It breaks off inside the queen’s oviduct, preventing the injecting semen from escaping. Drama!

Sage Grouse

A male greater sage grouse. Image credit: Bureau  of Land Management / Public domain

These birds like to make an impression, and do it in the right place. Sage grouse mate in a particular geographic area called a lek. They return to this same spot each year, and the location is passed down from generation to generation. In a way, these leks are ancestral lands for the sage grouse. 

When trying to find a mate, the male grouse will congregate in large groups in the lek at sunrise. They do this every day from sometime in March through May. The males perform a sort of dance while fanning their tales and strutting forwards as they inflate their large throat sacks. This makes quite a show and a loud popping sound. The female sage grouse will approach a male with her wings spread, squatting close to the ground, when she is ready to mate.

Water Boatman

The water boatman is a tiny bug with hind legs shaped like oars. It measures less than 0.5 inches long, and lives in all kinds of waterways, including freshwater, salt water and brackish areas. It tends to live near the bottom of the water it inhabits by attaching itself to underwater vegetation in a bubble of air. 

How is the water boatman’s mating ritual so odd? This insect can create a mating call that makes it the loudest animal on the planet, relative to its size. The insect produces a call known to be as loud as 99.2 decibels, creating the same amount of sound you would witness while sitting in the front row of an orchestra. It has been said people beside the water can hear the water boatman calling from the bottom of the river. 

Giraffes

Giraffa camelopardalis angolensis (mating). Image credit:Hans Hillewaert/Wikimedia.org

Giraffes are best known for their beautifully long necks and mottled hair patterns. Lesser known is the fact that the male tastes the female’s pee to see if she’s ready to mate. Yes, you read that correctly. 

The male giraffe wanders the grasslands and savannah going from herd to herd. To check for a potential mate, he approaches the female from behind.  He nuzzles her rear end, in an effort to stimulate her to pee. If and when the female urinates, the male takes a lick to see what her pee tastes like. 

When the female giraffe is ready for mating, her urine will have certain elevated levels of hormones in her pee that give off a certain taste. Does she taste right? The male picks his partner. 

Garden Snails

Cornu aspersum, mating. San Luis Obispo County, California. Image credit: Linda Tanner/Wikimedia.org

You might never have guessed it but garden snails are hermaphrodites. Each snail has both male and female sex organs. This means that they can both fertilize each other! 

When snails meet and decide to try and mate, they first suss each other out. Snails do this by circling each other and touching each other with their tentacles. Chemicals emitted into the air can tell the snails they are ready to mate, and when they go for it, each releases something called a love dart. These darts enable each snail to penetrate the other, so that they are connected. The love darts don’t transfer semen, but rather spread mucus that increases the odds that mating will be successful. 

Pufferfish

Patterns made by the male pufferfish to attract mate. Image credit: Insh.world

Crop circles may be something you find on land, but under the sea it is pufferfish circles that you may encounter. 

This fish is a bit of an artist. It fans the sea floor with its fins in circles, making impressive patterns that can measure up to seven feet in diameter. A true labor of love, the circles are made by the male pufferfish and later reviewed by the female. If she likes what she sees, she will proceed.

The female pufferfish lays her eggs in the center of the circular pattern, and the male returns to fertilize them. The formation of the circle actually acts to channel water in and out of the pattern, slowing it down and controlling its direction. It could be that the female pufferfish is looking for the best real estate for her eggs!

Praying Mantis

Praying mantis mating. Image credit: Oliver Koemmerling/Wikimedia.org

Love hurts- especially when your mate eats you after sex. 

In one of the wildest mating rituals on Earth, the female praying mantis eats the male after mating. 

Why? Word has it that females who attack and eat their partners produce more eggs, and also have offspring that receive more biological material from their father. Win-win?

Red Garter Snakes

Mating ball of red garder snakes. Image credit: Wikimedia.org

Garter snakes don’t eat their mates, but they do have other noteworthy mating rituals. In the spring, the male garter snakes emerge from their wintery homes underground. The females follow after the males, who surround the females in hordes. One female snake can be encircled by nearly 100 males, in a great mating ball. 

Flatworms

Flatworms copulating. Image credit:edu.glogster.com

Like snails, flatworms are also hermaphrodites, meaning they have both male and female sex organs. When mating, flatworms engage in something called “penis fencing”. Each worm pierces the other’s skin, injecting sperm on to it while performing what is known as “traumatic insemination”. Sometimes both flatworms inseminate each other, and at other times they compete, and only one transfers its sperm.  

Birds Of Paradise

The Wilson's Bird of Paradide is found in Papua New Guinea. Image credit: Serhanoksay/Wikimedia.org

Like the sage grouse, birds of paradise also perform dances to attract a mate. Found in New Guinea and Australia in dense rainforests, the male starts practicing this dance long before he is old enough to go searching for a partner. If he is lucky enough, he progresses to where his moves are smooth enough that a female will be attracted and fall for him. His elaboarate dance moves provide her with the information the female needs to make her big decision. 

What else counts? The male’s bright feathers give the female an idea of how healthy he is.  If the male has all the right stuff, he is sure to land a mate. 

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